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The problem with Evil races is not what you think

Doug McCrae

Legend
4e? Alignment is rather less important/emphasized in 4e, but I don't think anything hints at humanoids who are other than evil.
In the D&D 4e Monster Manual (2008) "a monster's alignment is not rigid, and exceptions can exist to the general rule" (pg 7) so I'd say it rejects the idea of "always evil." Orcish behaviour in 4e may be due to environment and upbringing, as it is in Roger Moore's article in Dragon #62 (1982).

As far as I'm aware, AD&D 1e and D&D 5e are exceptional in making orcish evil racial, inherent, inherited, and biological. Orcish personality traits are "natural tendencies" (pg 16) in the AD&D 1e DMG. The D&D 5e PHB uses very similar phrasing — "inborn tendencies", "innate tendencies." (pg 122) In 5e this is true of all the races that were created by evil deities, presumably similar to the listing of "savage and brutal" humanoids on pg 7 of the MM.
 
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Ace

Adventurer
I think there is ample evidence, both from history and from current events, that concern for racism, and the propagation of racist tropes and racialised ways of thinking via cultural artefacts, is not a purely academic concern.

In fact I would go so far as to say that only someone living in an ivory tower could think so.

I don't live anywhere near an ivory tower but a mixed ethnicity and gender working/middle class area, Also have a mixed ethnic and gender gaming group as well . All of my adult gaming have been with mixed ethnicity, gender and/or cultural groups . That included gay people as well .So no Ivory Tower here.

Its probably more class related , almost no one I game with has a college degree or works in any field that requires one so they have a different set of priorities whatever ethnic group they belong too. The few college educated exceptions, one a first nations person was educated decades ago in an entirely different educational system.

This isn't meant to negate real life concerns over racism mind in any way but I'm discussing fantasy racism and gaming world racism not real issues here.

Also the worry about racism against non existent species is new. No one in the past cared racism against orcs because orcs do not exist and don't represent any real group. Killing orcs babies was just gamer angels on heads of pins stuff.

A concern about portrayal about racism real groups could come up and its valid even in the day though WOD gypsies was thought trash but a high openness even among even very Conservative gamers meant it really wasn't an issue that I remember. You were a gamer or not a gamer.

Maybe I have been lucky but I've never gamed with overtly racist people of any race . Doesn't mean they aren't out there but even very Right Wing gamers tend to rate high in openness so its unlikely to be a threat to the hobby . FWIW I'd kick racist gamers for being obnoxious or leave. I am there to game period.

Interestingly have seen very occasional concern about evil spirits and demonic names from spiritually inclined gamers and about playing evil from religious ones but this was rare .
 
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Doug McCrae

Legend
Also the worry about racism against non existent species is new.
It's a more widespread concern than it used to be, but it's not new.

S MacPherson, letter in White Dwarf #73 (1986) (emphasis mine):

It has often struck me that, being nearly all based on the well-worn cliches of pulp fiction, 'pulp drawing, and 'pulp cinema', role-playing games tend to reflect a great number of backward and outmoded ideas. Not only is the role of women reduced to that of a deceitful whore or helpless innocent, but there is also an obsession with the idea of supermen, the idea of uncontrolled but legitimate violence, with the idea of defenceless and inferior people or races, and with the idea of an evil, all-pervading external threat to (Western) civilisation.​
The cover of your last issue (WD70) illustrates several of these points very nicely: there is the blond, masculine hero; there is the passive, but deceitful, temptress; and there is the evil, enemy 'green' race against whom our white, blond hero is fighting.​
 

MGibster

Legend
For those interested, this is the cover from White Dwarf #70 which was published in 1985 which the author in @Doug McCrae's example is writing about. Other than the woman, I don't find anything objectionable (or particularly remarkable) to the cover in question. But Doug's right, some people have had concerns for a while.

White Dwarf 70.JPG
 

Ace

Adventurer
It's a more widespread concern than it used to be, but it's not new.

S MacPherson, letter in White Dwarf #73 (1986) (emphasis mine):

It has often struck me that, being nearly all based on the well-worn cliches of pulp fiction, 'pulp drawing, and 'pulp cinema', role-playing games tend to reflect a great number of backward and outmoded ideas. Not only is the role of women reduced to that of a deceitful whore or helpless innocent, but there is also an obsession with the idea of supermen, the idea of uncontrolled but legitimate violence, with the idea of defenceless and inferior people or races, and with the idea of an evil, all-pervading external threat to (Western) civilisation.​
The cover of your last issue (WD70) illustrates several of these points very nicely: there is the blond, masculine hero; there is the passive, but deceitful, temptress; and there is the evil, enemy 'green' race against whom our white, blond hero is fighting.​
That was interesting. Thanks. Learn something new everyday.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I don’t know if I actually gamed with a real racist, but I definitely game did with one guy who was standoffish for the entire 3 years I was in that group. Don’t know that we ever shook hands.
 

MGibster

Legend
I don’t know if I actually gamed with a real racist, but I definitely game did with one guy who was standoffish for the entire 3 years I was in that group. Don’t know that we ever shook hands.
I've been gaming with the same people for about ten years and I don't think we've ever shook hands. But I do think it's weird that someone you gamed with for so long would be standoffish towards you.
 

pemerton

Legend
I looked at my copy of The Traveller Book, printed in 1982 by GDW, which was an update of the original 3BB 'Classic' edition, and pretty much identical in most respects. It lists only TL 0 as 'primitive', pretty much the same as you do. I'm going to guess, without digging out the original 3BBs, that this is how it was worded there.
I've just looked at my 1977 edition of Book 3. It doesn't have any generic labels for Tech Levels, and hence doesn't describe TL 0 as "primitive" nor as anything else.

The word "primitive" does get used, though. In the vehicles list, for air vehicles there is a reference to "primitive types such as hot-air balloons or gliders" and also to a "primitive biplane". And there is also an entry labelled "primitive transportation" which says that

On worlds with low technology levels (0 through 3) the local means of transportation will tend to depend on beasts of burden, animal drawn carts, and watercraft such as galleys and sailing ships.​

A quick review of the 1981 version of Book 3 has it the same.
 

pemerton

Legend
Re these concerns: I remember reading this sort of criticism of JRRT at least back in 1987 (I can't remember who the author was; it was a book that was analysing either children's literature or fantasy literature but I can't remember that point of detail either).

I remember writing a letter to Marvel Comics expressing objection to (what I thought was) a racist episode maybe in the very late 80s or early 90s (around the time of the Heku trilogy, though that wasn't what I was writing about - Google tells me that the Heku trilogy was 1988, and more Googling makes me think it might have been episode 218, from May 1989).

They didn't publish my letter.
 

Ace

Adventurer
I don’t know if I actually gamed with a real racist, but I definitely game did with one guy who was standoffish for the entire 3 years I was in that group. Don’t know that we ever shook hands.
Not everyone likes everyone. It may be he just doesn't like you, not your race. I also gamed with a guy who would not eat with the group so gamers can have odd habits.

FWIW I had two people married into the same family , to sisters in fact who would not game together as they got on each others nerves.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Not everyone likes everyone. It may be he just doesn't like you, not your race. I also gamed with a guy who would not eat with the group so gamers can have odd habits.

FWIW I had two people married into the same family , to sisters in fact who would not game together as they got on each others nerves.
It’s possible, but the negative vibes started hour one day one.
 

Ace

Adventurer
It’s possible, but the negative vibes started hour one day one.
Ugh. I'm sorry you had to put up with that. You don't have to be friends with people you game with or even like them but basic courtesy is not optional. Advice to others, not gaming is better than bad gaming or gaming with jerks.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Ugh. I'm sorry you had to put up with that. You don't have to be friends with people you game with or even like them but basic courtesy is not optional. Advice to others, not gaming is better than bad gaming or gaming with jerks.
Fortunately, the rest of the group was freaking awesome! No joke, they really caused me to up my role-playing game.
 

In the D&D 4e Monster Manual (2008) "a monster's alignment is not rigid, and exceptions can exist to the general rule" (pg 7) so I'd say it rejects the idea of "always evil." Orcish behaviour in 4e may be due to environment and upbringing, as it is in Roger Moore's article in Dragon #62 (1982).

As far as I'm aware, AD&D 1e and D&D 5e are exceptional in making orcish evil racial, inherent, inherited, and biological. Orcish personality traits are "natural tendencies" (pg 16) in the AD&D 1e DMG. The D&D 5e PHB uses very similar phrasing — "inborn tendencies", "innate tendencies." (pg 122) In 5e this is true of all the races that were created by evil deities, presumably similar to the listing of "savage and brutal" humanoids on pg 7 of the MM.
Well, read the entry, it has NOTHING positive, at all, to say about Orcs in 4e! They are described in exactly the same language. Alignment overall may be treated a bit more loosely in some places, but the overall architecture of the 4e cosmology is one in which 'law vs chaos' and 'good vs evil' (they often don't make much distinction, and given that CG is not even an alignment possibility anymore, just being called 'good' know definitely confabulates the two) is a VERY strong theme! The architecture of the Universe itself is Elemental Chaos vs Astral Sea (a realm of placid order and thought more than anything). Beyond that, the Abyss, and Chaotic Evil, the Orcish alignment, are literally an infection rotting the whole structure.

So, yeah, obviously you could play orcs as a more nuanced race with a variety of viewpoints and perhaps spin their 'classic' portrayal as a product of a specific culture. I don't think anything in 4e really encourages that sort of thing.
 

I don’t know if I actually gamed with a real racist, but I definitely game did with one guy who was standoffish for the entire 3 years I was in that group. Don’t know that we ever shook hands.
There was a group that I gamed with a few times that was EXTREMELY misogynistic. I don't recall racism per-se, but there were several 'toxic' individuals there who really were over the top. Their GM (the brother of one of the ring leader) was actually a really good guy, though. My best friend loved gaming with him and eventually he ended up marrying a woman that was part of our group, though not one of my regular players. The rest of that crowd never did change their tune. AFAIK they're still up to the same tricks as before, though I have not heard anything of them in years.

That was Vermont, which is VERY VERY white, so it may well be they were racist as well, but it never seemed to come up explicitly in my limited contact with them. I will say, other than that, even when I was gaming in an area where there was a lot of racial tensions, I didn't run into gamers who were particularly overtly prejudiced.

But that's just the thing, it isn't really the overt in your face sort of stuff that is the main issue, is it?
 

I've just looked at my 1977 edition of Book 3. It doesn't have any generic labels for Tech Levels, and hence doesn't describe TL 0 as "primitive" nor as anything else.

The word "primitive" does get used, though. In the vehicles list, for air vehicles there is a reference to "primitive types such as hot-air balloons or gliders" and also to a "primitive biplane". And there is also an entry labelled "primitive transportation" which says that

On worlds with low technology levels (0 through 3) the local means of transportation will tend to depend on beasts of burden, animal drawn carts, and watercraft such as galleys and sailing ships.​

A quick review of the 1981 version of Book 3 has it the same.
I would think that the use of 'primitive' in that sense is pretty close to its 'classic' definition. A 'primitive' biplane is simply an aircraft of the most basic and original sort. Clearly there is an implication of a more limited technical capability at those tech levels, but Traveller never really associates that with 'race'. In fact the game is extremely vague about culture in general! While it is certainly likely to come up in respect of events in a campaign, potentially, there's no mention of anything like human racial groupings or anything like that, so nothing to link it to there.

Same with alien species, they are depicted as fairly nuanced and complex, with their character being more defined as 'dog people', 'cat people', 'bug people', etc. and even that seems more like 'here is now the Imperium sees them'. They aren't especially depicted as 'primitive' or 'advanced' in most cases, and those races which are less technically advanced have other unique characteristics.

I don't know Marc Miller at all, but mostly his game seems quite divorced from these sorts of issues. Maybe it is more chance than design, he's the only one who can say, and he seems to be a pretty quiet guy.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
That was Vermont, which is VERY VERY white, so it may well be they were racist as well, but it never seemed to come up explicitly in my limited contact with them. I will say, other than that, even when I was gaming in an area where there was a lot of racial tensions, I didn't run into gamers who were particularly overtly prejudiced.
So because they were "very" white they are likely racist even though you never noticed anything...

You realize that this sentence is the most racist thing uttered in this entire discussion?
Its quite sad that the people who see racism everywhere even where no one exists are blind to their own racist statements.
 

So because they were "very" white they are likely racist even though you never noticed anything...

You realize that this sentence is the most racist thing uttered in this entire discussion?
Its quite sad that the people who see racism everywhere even where no one exists are blind to their own racist statements.
No, no. What I'm saying is that VERMONT is very white. It is, look it up, I lived there for more than 30 years. I was married to a colored person part of that time. It isn't especially filled with overtly racist people, either. More the opposite. All I was saying by noting the fact is that you wouldn't KNOW, because you don't run into people there in a context where they are exhibiting their bigotry, if they have it. The context is pretty close to always a bunch of white people getting together. It isn't like we sit around talking about them other folks when we're all together in a room, right?

Anyway, what I quickly discovered, is that there is plenty of institutional/systematic prejudice there, like the rest of the US. It just takes the form of people treating POCs like space aliens or assuming they are all idiotic children, etc.
 


pemerton

Legend
I would think that the use of 'primitive' in that sense is pretty close to its 'classic' definition. A 'primitive' biplane is simply an aircraft of the most basic and original sort. Clearly there is an implication of a more limited technical capability at those tech levels, but Traveller never really associates that with 'race'. In fact the game is extremely vague about culture in general! While it is certainly likely to come up in respect of events in a campaign, potentially, there's no mention of anything like human racial groupings or anything like that, so nothing to link it to there.
Book 1 (1977 edition) includes the following on page 8:

A NOTE ON GENDER AND RACE
Nowhere in these rules is a specific requirement established that any character (player or non-player) be of a specific gender or race. Any character is potentially of any race or of either sex.​

Looking back at this, it reads like a deliberate if implicit repudiation of the AD&D obsession with both - though it predates the 1978 PHB. I believe there were pre-PHB treatments of sex in the D&D corpus - with stuff about STR limits and CHA minimums and the like - so maybe that is what was being implicitly referenced?
 

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