D&D 5E On Representation and Roleplaying

Norade

Villager
Whether or not that is true, it could still be an issue for people of heritage from those countries living in North America.

It is an understatement to say that people of both Japanese and Chinese heritage have been treated very poorly in North America. Chinese people were enslaved to create railroads and Japanese people were put into concentration camps for example.

Violence against them has risen dramatically with the onset of the global pandemic as well.

Having positive representation in popular media would make a meaningful difference for them. At the very least it will heighten empathy toward them when white people see them as protagonists on screen.
This is doubtless true but has little to do with issues in playing specific characters that some groups might find problematic and others will not.

It's also true that people not of a community should amplify the voices of minorities but never speak for them and that we must be careful that we're not mistaking a vocal group within a minority for their unified voice. I feel like a lot of very well-intentioned folks end up making things worse by sticking up for people that neither want nor appreciate their help.
 

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Vaalingrade

Legend
What? Why would a black american automatically be part of a diaspora? Even when he or she was born in the US, as were (probably) their parents?
We are STILL dealing with the repercussions of that disporia. Even those of us whose ancestors came over after the fact. And part of it is people still acting like we're not.
You do seem to attribute quite a lot to the skin colour a person has.
Please don't do this. This is not a good argument or a good look.

Or a good anything.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
but why does representation help is it some kind of connection or validation thing as either of those things are utterly alien to me, does this make sense I see how it show people off and that they are part of a thing but I fail to see why they would care to begin with is my failure, can that be explained?

people got the sense they could do something because a charter on tv was sort of similar to them that seems very alien to me, I watched tv to get away from myself not be inspired nothing ever inspired conviction in myself.
I'm not meaning this to be flippant. The fact that it seems alien to you is may be because you're already well-represented in media. For some, absence in media can also feel like erasure.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
This falls into that same line of thinking that gender swapping belts in D&D ought to explain away any transgender rep in a fantasy world with magic. I know it wasn't intentional, but its basically trying to wipe out a persons identity like its a problem they can just fix in the game. So, having wheelchairs in a sci-fi setting allows folks who need them to represent themselves in such games even though there are ways of removing the need entirely.

While it's a delicate topic, I don't think it makes for a proper representation, because in a setting where medicine can cure any ailment that makes wheelchairs a necessity in today's world, the only one who would need them in setting are those who those who actively refuse treatment. It represents only those who chose to be in a wheelchair, a situation with little to no bearing on the situation of real life people with disabilities. Some are indeed embracing their situation as a part of their identity, but it's quite offensive to assume it is the case of everyone. The political reaction, in setting, to people with disabilities (ie, in setting, who chose to stay affected by them) would also lead to societies with little to no compassion toward disabilities ("if you chose not to accept treatment, your loss!"). It might also logically lead to social and political environment actively hostile to people outside the norm unless, in setting, there is a valid, socially accepted reason to refuse treatment. I'd be wary of including people with disabilities in a setting where the disabilities can be cured at will, because their situation can't be properly and respectfully depicted unless a great deal of tought is devoted to make sure it's the case. One of the way I can think of is if the treatment is reserved to the rich, but that is a very stringent restriction on political systems in the society the characters are in.
 

Chinese people were not enslaved in the United States. After the Civil War, they were used as cheap labor to build our rail roads and even a bit in the American South to replace black laborers who demanded higher wages. And while Chinese laborers were often treated poorly by by all sorts of different groups in the United States, they were not slaves.

There were practically treated like slaves, though, including being worked to death. And also look at how the Irish were treated for a long time. And there is still the very dark side of prostitution, where many sex workers, of all races, are basically sex slaves.

As for the how this topic has turned to Africa, from reading some replies it sure seems some people are treating a continent as if it were a single country, but there are 54 countries on the continent and probably double or triple that in individual cultures/ethnicities. Some of the comments make it sound like a native of South Africa and a native of Somalia are not different, or that a black resident of the Congo could write a book about Ethiopia. Sometimes I think folks here in the US see we are just one big country, so they think the same way about Europe or Africa. Or they see we are a big melting pot and do not realize that other parts of the world self-segregate much more and just assume everywhere else is like the US.
 

Oofta

Legend
There were practically treated like slaves, though, including being worked to death. And also look at how the Irish were treated for a long time. And there is still the very dark side of prostitution, where many sex workers, of all races, are basically sex slaves.

As for the how this topic has turned to Africa, from reading some replies it sure seems some people are treating a continent as if it were a single country, but there are 54 countries on the continent and probably double or triple that in individual cultures/ethnicities. Some of the comments make it sound like a native of South Africa and a native of Somalia are not different, or that a black resident of the Congo could write a book about Ethiopia. Sometimes I think folks here in the US see we are just one big country, so they think the same way about Europe or Africa. Or they see we are a big melting pot and do not realize that other parts of the world self-segregate much more and just assume everywhere else is like the US.
The bold part is one of the things I have an issue with. The current countries we have don't really reflect the cultural groupings that existed in pre-colonial times, I'm not even sure where you would start if you wanted to organize the continent based on cultures. That and most people don't realize how big Africa really is, or assume that as you said it's all one homogenous people.

It's the same in a lot of the world. I had friends from India who could only converse in English because their native tongues were different for example. Discussions of the culture they grew up with accentuated the differences.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Chinese people were not enslaved in the United States. After the Civil War, they were used as cheap labor to build our rail roads and even a bit in the American South to replace black laborers who demanded higher wages. And while Chinese laborers were often treated poorly by by all sorts of different groups in the United States, they were not slaves.

I didn't say that. I said North America. They were in Canada.


Though I doubt your claims anyway. It's like saying prisoners in the USA aren't slaves. They are, they're just called something different.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
And also look at how the Irish were treated for a long time.
You mean poorly... but nowhere near as bad as say, in particular, black people in the United States were treated? Or how Japanese people were treated during the Second World War?

Like, being Irish wasn't easy in the US for a while, but Irish Americans became part of the mainstream and became an essential power group not too many generations after they first arrived. Hell, they did form a major funding part of the War of Independence in Ireland. And note that you probably mean Catholic Irish - Protestant Irish peopel from Ulster didn't face quite the same issues.

As well as that, Irish people were so, so so much better treated by Americans much more quickly than Irish people were treated in the UK - in particular during the Troubles. Now, I have never encountered any bigotry or shite from people in the UK in real life, but I have encountered some strange as heck attitudes from UK people even today online - and I'm fairly sure I was judged in a strange way by someone I knew quite well from there. Hell, I've had people from the UK not even remember what part of the island I'm on!

Let me put it this way. An Irish American Catholic (who had quite close links to Ireland in many ways) became President nearly a good fifty years before a black man and Africian American became President. Which is just... really quite nutty.

Which is all to say; while how Irish people in America were treated as bad... it's just not comparable, at all, to what black and Africian Americans experience. And continue to experience.

[Won't go into it here and somewhat irrelevant but this is partly why I think Bioshock Infinite is a shite game]
 

payn

Legend
While it's a delicate topic, I don't think it makes for a proper representation, because in a setting where medicine can cure any ailment that makes wheelchairs a necessity in today's world, the only one who would need them in setting are those who those who actively refuse treatment. It represents only those who chose to be in a wheelchair, a situation with little to no bearing on the situation of real life people with disabilities. Some are indeed embracing their situation as a part of their identity, but it's quite offensive to assume it is the case of everyone. The political reaction, in setting, to people with disabilities (ie, in setting, who chose to stay affected by them) would also lead to societies with little to no compassion toward disabilities ("if you chose not to accept treatment, your loss!"). It might also logically lead to social and political environment actively hostile to people outside the norm unless, in setting, there is a valid, socially accepted reason to refuse treatment. I'd be wary of including people with disabilities in a setting where the disabilities can be cured at will, because their situation can't be properly and respectfully depicted unless a great deal of tought is devoted to make sure it's the case. One of the way I can think of is if the treatment is reserved to the rich, but that is a very stringent restriction on political systems in the society the characters are in.
If you want to include bigotry in your games, thats up to you. The point is not to assume that magic or tech can "fix" a person and that any such individual would want that in their RPG. It essentially leads to total lack of representation for people with disabilities or who are transgender.
 

MGibster

Legend
Though I doubt your claims anyway. It's like saying prisoners in the USA aren't slaves. They are, they're just called something different.
Okay, your own cite doesn't claim the Chinese were enslaved in Canada. Just be aware, that a lot of people who trot out Irish "slaves" and others very often do so for the purpose of dismissing the long term impact slavery had on survivors of the African diaspora. And I'll just drop it at this point because we're straying from the topic into territory that isn't appropriate for the message board.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Insulting other members
Okay, your own cite doesn't claim the Chinese were enslaved in Canada. Just be aware, that a lot of people who trot out Irish "slaves" and others very often do so for the purpose of dismissing the long term impact slavery had on survivors of the African diaspora. And I'll just drop it at this point because we're straying from the topic into territory that isn't appropriate for the message board.

What is the point of lying here?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
Folks,

A lot of this is starting to read like trying to decide who, exactly, was more abused. Let us not do that any more, because it starts to look like trying to deflect or minimize whoever was "least" abusive. We can accept that a lot of people have been treated really poorly, and not try to compare and contrast them.

With that accepted, we can bring this back around to how this is relevant to gaming again, please and thank you.

Thanks, all.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
If you want to include bigotry in your games, thats up to you. The point is not to assume that magic or tech can "fix" a person and that any such individual would want that in their RPG. It essentially leads to total lack of representation for people with disabilities or who are transgender.
Except that clashes with combat heavy systems like D&D where it is intentional that you can easily "fix" people through cure and regeneration spells.
Sure, from a out of game view you can see why you want wheelchairs in the game, but from a world building, in game point of view it makes no sense that wheelchairs exist which cost more (sometimes much more) than things which can completely fix your body of any disability.
Same goes for transgender characters. For example Starfinder has incredibly cheap sex change potions (cheapest potion in the game, 25 credits which is well withing the range of nearly everyone except the very poor) produced on a industrial scale. With that being part of the setting its very hard to find an in game explanation why a transgender person would not simply use such a potion.

If you want wheelchairs in your world then you have to design your system in a way that physical disabilities can't be fixed cheaply and easily. Thats why in Path and Starfinder the addition of wheelchairs as been done in a bad way imo.
 
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The bold part is one of the things I have an issue with. The current countries we have don't really reflect the cultural groupings that existed in pre-colonial times, I'm not even sure where you would start if you wanted to organize the continent based on cultures. That and most people don't realize how big Africa really is, or assume that as you said it's all one homogenous people.

It's the same in a lot of the world. I had friends from India who could only converse in English because their native tongues were different for example. Discussions of the culture they grew up with accentuated the differences.
Well this is the critique that some people had with Tomb of Annihilation and with Chuult in general: that it's a grab-bag of European stereotypes presented as a playground for pulp adventure. It's interesting, if you read the old Dragon Magazine article about Chuult how unapologetic they were about disregarding any actual history or art and just using anglo-american writers (they cite H. Rider Haggard,
Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even Michael Crichton as some primary influences). The author literally calls it "the Dark Continent." And there's another article in that issue called "The Other Orientals" (a series of class kits). And that was 1993!
 

payn

Legend
Except that clashes with combat heavy systems like D&D where it is intentional that you can easily "fix" people through cure and regeneration spells.
Sure, from a out of game view you can see why you want wheelchairs in the game, but from a world building, in game point of view it makes no sense that wheelchairs exist which cost more (sometimes much more) than things which can completely fix your body of any disability.
Same goes for transgender characters. For example Starfinder has incredibly cheap sex change potions (cheapest potion in the game, 25 credits which is well withing the range of nearly everyone except the very poor) produced on a industrial scale. With that being part of the setting its very hard to find an in game explanation why a transgender person would not simply use such a potion.

If you want wheelchairs in your world then you have to design your system in a way that physical disabilities can't be fixed cheaply and easily. Thats why in Path and Starfinder the addition of wheelchairs as been done in a bad way imo.
So, folks are assuming transgender is fixed with a sex swap. Thats not always the case. Im going to leave that there.

The person with a disability issue is about empathy, not logic. Let me try this again. Professor Charles Xavier has a disability in a world where it doesn't necessarily make sense. I mean, the x-men have tech that is way ahead of its time. Surely, Hank could come up with something? If not Hank, what about Charles using his powers? Or finding a mutant that can heal people? The point is Xavier is an intelligent capable leader, despite being a person with a disability. Thats huge for folks who live with a disability to see.

The default of RPGs is playing capable supernatural characters. You dont have to explain worlds in which dragons exist along with people cause it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It fulfills the fantasy to ignore that and adventure on. A person having a wheel chair in D&D or Starfinder is being represented even though it can be explained away. A person with a disability can be the same in their fantasy RPG experiences.

Now, in your home game if you have no players with a disability, you dont need to worry about this. Though, I think its great for designers to think about this for people who do.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Except that clashes with combat heavy systems like D&D where it is intentional that you can easily "fix" people through cure and regeneration spells.
You need to factor in:
  • Cost. Curative and restorative magics are typically cost prohibative for common folk and low level characters.
  • Availability. Depending on the setting, the availability—even to wealthier individuals—may not necessarilly be there. Are there enough NPC spellcasters of the requisite level to provide such magics to make it common?
  • Desire. There are some transgender people, for instance, that don't want to transition for whatever reason. There may well be reasons (be it personal, cultural, religious, etc.) for others to rebuff curative or restorative magics for these purposes.
 

While it's a delicate topic, I don't think it makes for a proper representation, because in a setting where medicine can cure any ailment that makes wheelchairs a necessity in today's world, the only one who would need them in setting are those who those who actively refuse treatment. It represents only those who chose to be in a wheelchair, a situation with little to no bearing on the situation of real life people with disabilities. Some are indeed embracing their situation as a part of their identity, but it's quite offensive to assume it is the case of everyone. The political reaction, in setting, to people with disabilities (ie, in setting, who chose to stay affected by them) would also lead to societies with little to no compassion toward disabilities ("if you chose not to accept treatment, your loss!"). It might also logically lead to social and political environment actively hostile to people outside the norm unless, in setting, there is a valid, socially accepted reason to refuse treatment. I'd be wary of including people with disabilities in a setting where the disabilities can be cured at will, because their situation can't be properly and respectfully depicted unless a great deal of tought is devoted to make sure it's the case. One of the way I can think of is if the treatment is reserved to the rich, but that is a very stringent restriction on political systems in the society the characters are in.
If the magic is really hard to get (ie in 5e, the only permanent, non-dispel-able ways to change one's biological sex are wish and Divine Intervention), you get a similar effect to simply being expensive: even a king can't just get that done.

But even if a quest to fix one's body is epic, it's still very much a speculative scenario if the perfect fix is available at all. How far would a transgender person go to get their body correct is an interesting question, but "making a deal with a devil" is a fantasy answer, not a real-world one.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
You need to factor in:
  • Cost. Curative and restorative magics are typically cost prohibative for common folk and low level characters.
  • Availability. Depending on the setting, the availability—even to wealthier individuals—may not necessarilly be there. Are there enough NPC spellcasters of the requisite level to provide such magics to make it common?
  • Desire. There are some transgender people, for instance, that don't want to transition for whatever reason. There may well be reasons (be it personal, cultural, religious, etc.) for others to rebuff curative or restorative magics for these purposes.
To put it into perspective for Starfinder.

Basic hoverchair: 350 credits Item level 1 (meaning everyone can get one)
Mid range hoverchair: 850 credits Item level 2
Expensive hoverchair: 4300 credits Item level 6

Cybernetic limb replacement: 100 credits Item level 1 (Basically a walk in procedure you can get everywhere)
Artifical Spine (Necrograft, so undead tissue) 200 credits: Item level 1
Regeneration Serum (regenerates one limb or organ) 600 credits Item level 6

Sex change serum: 350 credits ( I though it was even cheaper): Item level 1

Starting credits at level 1: 1000

So the range of people who can afford a hoverchair but not a limb regeneration (if they do not want to use cybernetics) is very small. Imo especially the higher priced hoverchair make no sense as futuristic wheelchair when fixing your body is so much cheaper and just as easy. They only make sense as a "mobility help" for people too lazy to walk Wall-E style, but using those chairs in that function is not really respectful to disabled players.
 

Just be aware, that a lot of people who trot out Irish "slaves" and others very often do so for the purpose of dismissing the long term impact slavery had on survivors of the African diaspora.

Yeah, when I mentioned the Irish, I only said how badly they were treated, never that they were enslaved here in the US. There are thousands of years of slavery, in every country/kingdom/culture we may want to make fantasy versions of, depending on time period being emulated. In most cases, it was prisoners of war or debtors that were enslaved, and even then, in some cultures it was possible to work your way out of slavery. That is so different than what the European nations started here in the Americas, and that was slowly eliminated once the 1800's started. Luckily, the vast majority of fantasy RPGs are replicating pre-1600's Europe. A fantasy Africa set pre-1600's would include several large and powerful kingdoms that could compete with the European powers, so representation varies depending on time period.

Now I feel like I have lost track of the original theme of this thread. Was it representation within a game setting or representation among the authors of the books?
 

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