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

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HJFudge

Explorer
4. Defending the desires of marginalized people to not have the bad guys of our game portrayed using the same language as their people, or whatever other specific issue we argue about on here, doesn’t infantilize anyone. In this thread, folks have referenced the activism of marginalized creators in the TTRPG community. They aren’t infantilizing themselves.

Putting aside the rest of your bullet point list for a moment, I am genuinely curious! It is a long thread and I no doubt missed it, but I AM actually interested in reading the experiences of TTRPG creators activism. Do you have links to their stories?
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Putting aside the rest of your bullet point list for a moment, I am genuinely curious! It is a long thread and I no doubt missed it, but I AM actually interested in reading the experiences of TTRPG creators activism. Do you have links to their stories?
It is a long thread, and I’ve had a very long day. I hope someone will have the oomph to help you out there, because my long day doesn’t really end until Wednesday...
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
That's a narrow characterization of the moral panic around D&D in the 80s. It wasn't just (or even mostly) about spells and religious faith. For a great many teachers and parents, depictions of demons and monsters being slain with swords was mindless and lurid violence that would rot kids' minds. I lived in a not very religious part of the world, and at the same time that parents and teachers were cracking down on D&D, they were also suppressing Iron Maiden t-shirts and Conan comics. It wasn't just religious conservatives. Educators and child welfare advocates thought this stuff was unhealthy for young minds and degraded culture.

I would say that conservatism was more dominant at that time compared to today, especially in culture, hence why you could have these sorts of moral panics that were lead by religious and conservative groups, even if all who followed them weren't conservative.

No, you just cited a study which I quoted but will quote AGAIN: "This study examined adolescents' attitudes about video games along with their self-reported play frequency."

It is literally the first line in the abstract.

Did... did you read past that?

"Adolescents who played video games frequently showed decreased concern about the effects that games with negatively stereotyped images may have on the players’ attitudes compared to adolescents who played games infrequently or not at all."

I mean, I can provide more studies if you like. How about this one?

"The novel findings of the present study were that individuals who play video games with high frequency, particularly males, were more likely to condone negative stereotypic images, to be less critical of negative images, and to view that game content should not change than were individuals who play video games with low frequency. Together, these findings indicate that male and high-frequency players may not only show increases in aggressive outcomes resulting from playing violent video games but also be more accepting of such increases in aggression. These effects may continue with prolonged video game usage and exacerbate each other with time. Repeated exposure to negative stereotypic content potentially reinforces attitudes that could lead to discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes. For example, extensive research on intergroup attitudes has shown that stereotyping leads to discrimination and prejudice (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000, in press; Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986; Stangor & Schaller, 1996). Regarding authority jurisdiction, the maj"

Or this one?

"his research used a survey design to assess the relationship between White college students’ frequency of video game play and attitudes toward Blacks and Asians. Results suggest that video game play cultivates real-world beliefs about Blacks, such that individuals who spend more time playing video games have less egalitarian views of Blacks."

Can't prove a negative really, but I can provide an article that shows that there is disagreement in the academic community.


Is this a be-all end-all? No of course not. There are differing opinions. Note the word: opinions. To present it as case closed, this is the same as evolutionary theory/gravity is a biiiiit disingenuous.

First off, you can prove that something doesn't have a correlative effect. Secondly, that study is talking about behavior, not attitude. Again, it's a crucial difference: video games and other media don't generally influence greater behaviors like causing people to commit assaults (like the study was after). But influencing attitudes? Again, there are plenty of studies out there.

Another study that casts doubt on your claim:


I mean, this is cool but at the same time the broader point I was making was that media influences attitude. Having one study that disagrees on a specific attitude or behavior change doesn't really dismiss or disprove the idea that media influences things. I mean, I can continue to show you studies that talk about things like stereotyping in video games and how that seems to influence attitudes, like this one:

"Study 3, an experiment, exposed players to both violent and nonviolent games with both White and Black characters. Participants were faster at classifying violent stimuli following games with Black characters and at classifying nonviolent stimuli following games with White characters, indicating that images of popular video game characters evoke racial stereotypes."

Interesting, since you have yet to supply this data? I know you think you have. But...a single link to a single article which is a survey does not a solid case make. Keep in mind, this is not a scholarly journal. I do not EXEPCT scholarly research from anyone here, this is not the format for it.

First off, I linked two, but I guess you ignored the other. But I limited myself to video games and race/gender when we're talking about the broader topic of media influence. You can look up the influence of movies, television, music, etc. It's all the same stuff: culture and media. D&D is not suddenly divorced from these, living it a vacuum.

Maybe I will one day hear an argument and be convinced and go 'Oh no, I was wrong!' This happens, believe it or not, time to time. Of course, this argument has to be a bit better than 'of course it is duh theres tons of evidence out there it is well known!' because, well, that is the same argument that has been used to promote fallacious and erroneous thinking since time began.

I mean, your entire argument is largely anecdotal and based around your own disbelief in the topic when there is an entire field of study on it. I don't expect you to be convinced, but that's not for lack of evidence.

I guess it CAN, strictly speaking, but DOES it? Again: Which person has experienced harm because orcs were portrayed as always evil? You talk a lot about video games and provide links to a (single) study (survey) of (attitudes of adolescents towards) video games but video games are engaged with in different ways than table top games are.

Why would you assume the effects would be the same?

All this amounts to that you are taking a stance based on what you believe rather than what can be shown.

I mean this is fine, when it comes down to it. This aint a scholarly journal, we are not scientists (maybe you are?). This is about opinions. But let us not pretend that this is such an open and shut case as you claim it to be.

Forgive me a bit of a hyperbolic example, but...they used to think the earth was flat. This was, as you say, well documented and well known.

But let us go back to the Satanic Panic comparisons.

I mean, I linked two at the start just as examples, but I could literally link a new media study for each of these quote blocks showing that media influences people attitudinally. I don't know how many I would need to actually get you to admit it, but if you desire I could keep going.

The better question is not "but DOES it?", but rather why wouldn't it? What makes D&D so special that it can't possibly influence anyone's attitudes towards anything? I mean, I think @Scribe 's description of what happened with GW and its fictional universes as a great example of how those things can influence attitude: it can be taken in the wrong way, latched onto by the wrong people, and then promoted to people who are first exposed to it in the wrong way. This is easier to do when your already dealing with fraught topics like authoritarianism and racism like 40K was.

I assure you there were psychological studies and science showing how D&D turned one to drugs/violence/antisocial behavior. These were later proven to be erroneous...but that is how science works. It is constantly being updated, changing, proving and disproving.

I mean, if we follow this logic then we can't trust anything science says because it's gotten things wrong in the past. Sure, these things could be wrong... but why not find the evidence for it rather than obliquely trying to imply it?

Influencing you to go out and read a fantasy book is not the same thing as influencing you to go out and mistreat someone. Influencing someone to buy some dice is not the same as influencing someone to objectify women. I can be easily influenced to read more about a topic I find interesting. I have no...wall? resistance? to that. But cmon. Let us not act like that is the same thing as influencing someone to go out and treat others poorly.

It's not even "going out and mistreating someone". You act like it has to activate some sort of behavior when it could just reinforce stereotypes or otherize people. It's not that hard to do: again, I direct to the movie Bright for a disastrous way this occurs.

You speak as if D&D is forcing hands. As if the people playing it have no choice but to become more and more okay with negative stereotypes towards real life people because of how the game deals with fake cultures/races.

I mean, actually I didn't say anything like that, so please don't strawman me.

The greater point is that D&D can't be removed from the context of society, and because society has systemic problems, those can carry through to D&D if we aren't careful with how you do things. Orcs being more primitive, tribal people who attack and raid humanoids around them? Well, feeds into a lot of stereotypes of colonized peoples: Native Americans, Mesoamericans, and Native Africans. Those are long-held media portrayals which eventually start to drift together, and even if you try to rehabilitate them ("Oh, they are so much more connected with nature!" or "Look upon he, the noble savage!"), it's still a bad, negative stereotype. And if you don't believe it exists, I would again direct you Bright, where they follow through on it and basically portray Orcs as African Americans.

Again, these aren't necessarily explicit in the books, but also we're at a point where WOTC needs to (or, really, has started to) realize what GW did before: that how things are right now, there is definitely a portion of the audience that does this and that they need to fight back against it. Wildemount also sort of showed a recognition of this.

Again though. Go and tell someone suffering from discrimination in the real world this: That WOTC taking out alignments/stats from a D&D book has improved their lives. That WOTC changing their lore to be more socially acceptable will help them.

I mean, I wish I could do more, but it's a helluva lot easier to influence WOTC compared to a lot of other places. A smaller, younger fanbase that is interested in social justice allows me to focus on making some level of change rather than no change at all.

Like, you try to ridicule changing something from being a bad Romani stereotype by saying "Do you think they really care?" and knowing a Roma dude, yes, they don't like it. I suppose when you've had some of your family get killed in the Holocaust and your cultural name being epithet for getting screwed, you end up caring about being portrayed as spies and enemies. The biggest thing is that most probably don't know it exists, which is why most don't concern themselves with it.

There were child psychologists and mental health experts in the 80s contributing to the alarmism around D&D and fantasy. Parents were being warned that young people (let's be honest - young men) were detaching from normal, healthy society and becoming obsessed with immersing themselves in lurid, violent fantasy worlds.

It wasn't just fundamentalist preachers arrayed against sword and sorcery, heavy metal, etc. A lot of well-intentioned, educated people believed young men were falling prey to their worst instincts of morbid fantasy and self-indulgence, and that adults in authority had a responsibility to save them from themselves. The producers of D&D, fantasy novels, heavy metal music, etc were seen to be polluting vulnerable minds with unhealthy fictions and imagery that contributing to anti-social behaviour. There were suicides linked to both D&D and heavy metal. So child welfare advocates certainly had (or felt they had) proof of the real consequences of the media they were against. Terrible and real harm.

Again, I feel like a lot of that was the influence of cultural conservatism, where religion and its perceived morality had a great deal more cultural influence than it does today. The state of the field is also a bit different, I would say, looking back at the DSM editions.

Edit: But also who is leveling what is different, too: in the past the accusations were largely speculative, focusing around the fanciful and the maybe less fanciful. The people who are talking about it today are talking about how it directly impacts them, how they feel, and how they see it within the community. The current complaints are just that much simpler to explain and rely less on speculative possible behavior and more on directly observable stuff as well as their own interactions with it.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Then how do they self-sustain? Consuming the brains of other intelligent creatures - which has been part of their lore since forever - sure sounds like eating to me.

How do they communicate? (and before you answer "psionically", mind-to-mind communication is just the same as talking only without the sound parts and much faster/more efficient).

How do they reproduce? They have to reproduce somehow if only to sustain their species.

On reproduction do they germinate/appear as fully mature mindflayers with all their abilities? And if yes, after that do they age; and do/can they eventually potentially die of old age? A no to the first question and-or a yes to the second immediately confirms a biological maturation process.

That's because I didn't.

Yes they're alien, even to the fantasy settings. That doesn't mean they're necessarily all that different in how they function biologically; unlike, say, demons whose "life" cycle is vastly different from anything mortal.
side note: I know it's turned into a strange discussion when I find myself defending mindflayers...
Are you joking?

The way a mindflayer mates, is nothing like people mate, the way they eat (sucking brains directly from the source with flesh eating tentacles to open the skull) is nothing like people eat, the way they talk (telepathy) is nothing like people talk - including writhing their face tentacles, and they don’t mature (as tadpoles) anything like people mature.

They don’t do these things in any way similar to people. They do them in an entirely alien way.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Are you joking?

The way a mind flayed mates, is nothing like people mate, the way they eat (sucking brains directly from the source with flesh eating tentacles to open the skull) is nothing like people eat, the way they talk (telepathy) is nothing like people talk - including writhing their face tentacles, and they don’t mature (as tadpoles) anything like people mature.

They don’t do these things in any way similar to people. They do them in an entirely alien way.
But they still do those things, notwithstanding; and can still thus legitimately claim every mechanical benefit of having an intelligent society that you want to give to Orcs and Drow and Goblins.

Which is, I suppose, fine if one wants to go that way. I go the other way, and am quite willing to curtail or even outright deny those benefits to any species I feel like, outside the core five. I'll gladly paint Orcs as being societally evil even if there's some individual exceptions.

Then again, I'll gladly paint Canadians as being societally polite even though I know all too well there's quite a few individual exceptions.

Lan-"this is the second time today I've ended up defending the rights of mindflayers in here - did hell just freeze over or something?"-efan
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
But they still do those things, notwithstanding; and can still thus legitimately claim every mechanical benefit of having an intelligent society that you want to give to Orcs and Drow and Goblins.

Which is, I suppose, fine if one wants to go that way. I go the other way, and am quite willing to curtail or even outright deny those benefits to any species I feel like, outside the core five. I'll gladly paint Orcs as being societally evil even if there's some individual exceptions.

Then again, I'll gladly paint Canadians as being societally polite even though I know all too well there's quite a few individual exceptions.

Lan-"this is the second time today I've ended up defending the rights of mindflayers in here - did hell just freeze over or something?"-efan
I think you’re getting the wrong end of the stick. When I write like, I mean “in a similar way”.

“John drives like Mike”
“Mary looks like her mother”
“Rob types like a computer wiz”
“Claire writes like Maya Angelou”

The fact that mindflayer bodies fulfill essential biological functions doesn’t mean they do it like people do. Otherwise 90% of living monsters would all fall in the same category.

Again I go back to my quote from Shakespeare.
 

JEB

Adventurer
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.
Which is kind of a shame, because alignment isn't the problem here (and in fact has its uses as a personality shorthand), it's just a scapegoat. If every member of a certain monster species is still portrayed in a monolithic way, the statblock not having "chaotic evil" in it won't make critics any happier.

Common sense? Who cares if creatures utterly devoid from the real world like mindflayers or dragons are evil or not.
So if Wizards started using a race of monstrosities or fiends or aberrations, with pig heads, that were created by an evil god to pillage and destroy the land, that would be fine, then? Because they don't look like people anymore?

Devils in D&D are not a race, they aren’t in any way comparable to people. They come into existence evil because they are evil spirits turned into powerful creatures made of hell by being rinsed of any personality and molded into lemures and then eventually into specific type of devil.
You may know that, I may know that, but do you think more casual players, or folks entirely unfamiliar with D&D, will accept that explanation?

And what stops Wizards from declaring, say, gnolls as fiends from this point forward, if it's OK for fiends to be inherently evil? (For the record, I am not fond of the always-chaotic-evil 5E gnoll myself.)

Interesting idea.

One thing I'd add might be some sort of descriptor of general means of pursuing said motivations; so this one might read "Motivations: hunger, domination, power. Means: ruthless." Contrast this with a hypothetical creature listing the same motivations but with "Means: peaceful" tacked on.
This is interesting, but isn't this ultimately just alignment with more words? (And as I said, alignment isn't the actual problem.)
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
So if Wizards started using a race of monstrosities or fiends or aberrations, with pig heads, that were created by an evil god to pillage and destroy the land, that would be fine, then? Because they don't look like people anymore?

I think if a creature is a fiend, then questions of morality become kind of irrelevant.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I was reading the wired article and one of the things that jumped out at me was the treatment of Tieflings. That an otherwise normal RPG group were comfortably roleplaying ostracism and suspicion of the tiefling character and this was normalized. The professor recognizes this as roleplaying racism, which it clearly is. I’d never really thought of tieflings as being problematic.

I’d like to see them less obvious. No horns or flaming eyes etc. instead at times either by their choosing or because they get angry or passionate these traits are revealed. Think the Lucifer TV show. Otherwise they look like what ever range of skin tones their parents would have.
 

JEB

Adventurer
I think if a creature is a fiend, then questions of morality become kind of irrelevant.
OK, then delete fiend from that list. A pig-headed creature, created by an evil god to pillage and destroy the land, that's an aberration (like a mind flayer) or a monstrosity (like an umber hulk). Now that the concept looks more inhuman, and doesn't have the humanoid type, it no longer raises concerns?

I’d like to see them less obvious. No horns or flaming eyes etc. instead at times either by their choosing or because they get angry or passionate these traits are revealed. Think the Lucifer TV show. Otherwise they look like what ever range of skin tones their parents would have.
I feel like a lot of tiefling players, plus fans of characters like Jester, would be unhappy to lose the aesthetics of the race; that looking kind of like a demon is part of their cool factor.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
OK, then delete fiend from that list. A pig-headed creature, created by an evil god to pillage and destroy the land, that's an aberration (like a mind flayer) or a monstrosity (like an umber hulk). Now that the concept looks more inhuman, and doesn't have the humanoid type, it no longer raises concerns?


I feel like a lot of tiefling players, plus fans of characters like Jester, would be unhappy to lose the aesthetics of the race; that looking kind of like a demon is part of their cool factor.

The horns and tail are to much for me. Not that they have them but to over the top and bleah.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
OK, then delete fiend from that list. A pig-headed creature, created by an evil god to pillage and destroy the land, that's an aberration (like a mind flayer) or a monstrosity (like an umber hulk). Now that the concept looks more inhuman, and doesn't have the humanoid type, it no longer raises concerns?


I feel like a lot of tiefling players, plus fans of characters like Jester, would be unhappy to lose the aesthetics of the race; that looking kind of like a demon is part of their cool factor.
The head of the creature is irrelevant to its type. Gnolls are humano The question is do they share overwhelming numbers of things in common with people.

Though it isn’t an exact science.

Its not for me to say why people play Tieflings. Just that I can see why a roleplaying group being expected to be suspicious of another character because they come from ‘bad blood’ is seen by outsiders as eye opening.
 

JEB

Adventurer
The head of the creature is irrelevant to its type. Gnolls are humano The question is do they share overwhelming numbers of things in common with people.

Though it isn’t an exact science.
So to be clear, the concept of a species with a human-like shape that's created by an evil power to wreak havoc isn't necessarily a problem? It's the portrayal of that race that should ultimately matter?
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
So to be clear, the concept of a species with a human-like shape that's created by an evil power to wreak havoc isn't necessarily a problem? It's the portrayal of that race that should ultimately matter?
Every race has a creation myth Orcs being the classic one.

Im just saying if a creature superficially looks, behaves and reacts like a person then it’s probably right to treat it like a person.
 

JEB

Adventurer
Every race has a creation myth Orcs being the classic one.
Sure. That's my personal approach on gnolls, for example, that the 5E demon origin is just cultist propaganda. My orcs aren't inherently evil or destructive either, Gruumsh is just one story. But that's just my preference, of course.

Im just saying if a creature superficially looks, behaves and reacts like a person then it’s probably right to treat it like a person.
So mind flayers, that in many senses behave and react like a person, and are clearly intelligent beings, are OK not to treat as people because they don't look human? Because we're told they're aberrations?

Conversely, if you had a species that looked human, but ate brains, reproduced through tadpoles, and had strange psionic powers, would it be OK to treat them as inhuman? What if they had the humanoid type instead of aberration?

If you can't treat them as inhuman, why? Aesthetics? Looking human is the dividing line? But 5E gnolls don't look human, or even act human; the only clear indicator of their being humanoid is their type. They could easily be defined as monstrosities. Or even fiends. But officially, they're humanoid.

If it would be justifiable to treat this hypothetical human-illithid as inhuman, why are 5E orcs different, if they were created by Gruumsh to pillage and destroy, and it really is part of their nature? What if Wizards had decided orcs in 5E were monstrosities instead? Or fiends? Would they still be problematic?

I don't mean to put you specifically on the spot, to be clear. And I'm not advocating that Wizards shouldn't address obviously problematic things in their products. But I'm just trying to illustrate that these lines aren't as straightforward as some folks might think they are. Especially to folks not familiar with D&D, unlike most of us on ENWorld.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Sure. That's my personal approach on gnolls, for example, that the 5E demon origin is just cultist propaganda. My orcs aren't inherently evil or destructive either, Gruumsh is just one story. But that's just my preference, of course.


So mind flayers, that in many senses behave and react like a person, and are clearly intelligent beings, are OK not to treat as people because they don't look human? Because we're told they're aberrations?

Conversely, if you had a species that looked human, but ate brains, reproduced through tadpoles, and had strange psionic powers, would it be OK to treat them as inhuman? What if they had the humanoid type instead of aberration?

If you can't treat them as inhuman, why? Aesthetics? Looking human is the dividing line? But 5E gnolls don't look human, or even act human; the only clear indicator of their being humanoid is their type. They could easily be defined as monstrosities. Or even fiends. But officially, they're humanoid.

If it would be justifiable to treat this hypothetical human-illithid as inhuman, why are 5E orcs different, if they were created by Gruumsh to pillage and destroy, and it really is part of their nature? What if Wizards had decided orcs in 5E were monstrosities instead? Or fiends? Would they still be problematic?

I don't mean to put you specifically on the spot, to be clear. And I'm not advocating that Wizards shouldn't address obviously problematic things in their products. But I'm just trying to illustrate that these lines aren't as straightforward as some folks might think they are. Especially to folks not familiar with D&D, unlike most of us on ENWorld.
Maybe I’m crazy. But I find it hard to believe that people actually think a mindflayer is like a human. Other than being roughly the same shape. They don’t behave at all like people. They stand at the top of a pyramid of mentally dominated slave races and they consume the psychic energies of their brains to sustain themselves, implanting tadpole offspring into the brains of humans to transform them into more Illithids.

Gnolls on other hands eat similar food - meat.
Breed true and reproduce the same way.
Grow young the same way.
Communicate with verbal language the same way
Live in tribal structures the same way.

All things are a matter of degrees.
 


Justice and Rule

Adventurer
Found on SageAdvice.eu. authenticity not verified.
fdc2925ed993a8daac710e5213ca38c3.jpg

That's a really great cover, not gonna lie. Hopefully we get some expansions on Barovia and the Domain of Dread that moves away from bad stereotypes. But a good move from WOTC nonetheless.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
I assure you there were psychological studies and science showing how D&D turned one to drugs/violence/antisocial behavior. These were later proven to be erroneous...but that is how science works. It is constantly being updated, changing, proving and disproving.
Just as a quick point of fact, there were no such studies. There was a quack psychiatrist (Dr. Thomas Radecki, now a convicted felon for trading prescriptions for sex) who supported the preposterous claims of BADD with such evidence as a letter written by a character in the novel Mazes & Monsters to document that D&D had caused real suicides. Pretty much all the evidence BADD and Radecki ever assembled was nonsense, including Pat Pulling deceptively editing newspaper articles to misrepresent their content. They pulled these shenanigans under oath in court, too.



 

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