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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity

Mercurius

Legend
Just to be clear -- if this thread does just end up rehashing the existing two, we'll need to close it. The moderation overhead right now is immense, and we don't have the hours in the day to handle a third identical thread (the post reports number at the top of my screen is red and is not a small number, and it's 1am!) Just an advance warning.

That would be sad and I hope it doesn't come to that, because the impetus behind this thread--unlike the two other threads--is to bring the two sides together, while the other two are more focused on entrenched two-sidedness, so I hope that will be considered with regards to any moderation that does occur.

So to re-frame my intention: How do we bring the two sides together? If both perspectives--as outlined in my original post--are true on their own, how to honor both? I'm going to stroll in the woods, but will try to offer my thoughts later.
 

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Mercurius

Legend
People can't even agree on to which ethnic group orcs supposedly are connected, so how can you remove said connection without removing orcs entirely?

It is a valid point, but I think given Morrus's warning, that is better addressed in one of the other threads. I'll instead reframe what you said, as follows: Given that some feel that orcs are characterized by negative racial stereotypes, how to de-couple or negate that stereotypes while still preserving what makes orcs orcish?

The point being, let's try to focus on constructive solutions, rather than arguing one side or the other.
 

bloodtide

Explorer
The Cliff Notes version (as I see it):


Thanks.

Well, the first one is a bit pointless. I mean I guess WotC can come out with a new book, The All Race Book. And that book can "officially" say "anyone of any race can be anything" and have special anything rules. And with everything a "stereotype" to someone...what can they remove? Everything?

And the other side does not really have to worry as everything has always been the "anything" way always.

Like the the New Player will grab the All Race Book and hold it up high and say "finnaly I can play a Good Drow Character!" and then the older gamer will say "Oh I have a Good Drow Character that I have been playing for 20 years...lets get together and play a game."

Really, I see the two sides as already on the same page. Is there a split they don't agree on?
 

If D&D heritage is found to be a problem why should it be preserved. Honor it in other ways. And change things from concerns. Change things from suggestions. Does not take away its meaningfulness. Or its history.
Still clinging onto its heritage is meaningless. And harmful. If concerns are ignored. If suggestions are ignored.
We live in different times. Hopeful we have at least come further in society.
 


delphonso

Explorer
I feel the heritage of DnD can be safely ignored. DnD has had setting shifts, rules rewrites, and description changes along the way. Kobolds became lizardy, Firbolgs became naturey, etc. So I feel changing specifics to help inclusivity is not a problem - even moreso, it's in keeping with DnD heritage of filling a niche in new editions which wasn't filled before.

People on this forum rail against Rune Knight's size increase. I think that is representative of the problem in inclusivity as DnD currently stands. Racial decisions result in your character having features and drawbacks you didn't decide or want, based on the book, rather than discussion between player and GM. Easily avoidable, yes, but often not.
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Aberrant Druid
Supporter
1) D&D Heritage. D&D heritage, as a whole, is meaningful and should be preserved, including the act of creative imagination for its own sake, and the nature of fantasy as distinct from reality.

2) Inclusivity. The D&D game should be welcoming and inclusive to anyone who wants to play it, no matter their ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or identity, ideology, disability, etc.

Despite my activity of the last few days, I would actually identify myself much more with #1 than with #2-- I agree with both statements, as a matter of course, but I don't want to see the nature of D&D fundamentally changed-- and when I am upset with WotC, it is more often than not because they have changed something than because they haven't.

I do not want to change the fundamental gameplay loop of D&D, the "colonialist narrative" that I have to keep reminding people actually means something except to restore the domain-level play (the act of ruling your colony) and immortal-level play that WotC senselessly amputated in 2000. I just want people to acknowledge the elephant in the room, first because their flimsy denials offend my sense of reason, and second because I believe-- in my heart of hearts-- that consciously acknowledging that certain ideas are toxic makes it easier to entertain those notions without accepting them.

Because as far as I know, I'm the only person on this forum saying that it's okay for D&D to be racist as hell as long as everyone at the table is drawing that bright line between what the game says is Good and what is actually good. Everyone else appears to be arguing either that roleplaying is a purely meaningless pastime with no bearing on our thoughts and feelings-- again, obvious nonsense-- or that the gameplay narrative of heroic civilized people going into the wilderness to eradicate uncivilized people isn't problematic.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but people who don't think that's a problem are the reason it's such a big problem.

2) How to do so in a way that preserves/nourishes the core of both? What can and should be sacrificed? What shouldn't be?

Well, I think we can easily start by saying that human(oid) cultures that are based on gross ethnic stereotypes need to be revised-- that this is not a terrible loss, and that most of the work can be accomplished by adding to those cultures rather than subtracting from them.

Second, we can acknowledge that it's possible for "the pretty people" to be war with "the ugly people", to have always been at war with them-- for noone on either side to have hope for peace-- without making it psychologically or spiritually impossible for then to be at peace. Human beings are theoretically capable of living in peace with one another, and yet no American on this forum has lived a single day when American soliders were not making war somehwere on the globe.

I come from a long line of criminals and adventurers, which I'm proud of, and some of my ancestors took part in the slave trade, which I'm less proud of. I'm a white descendant of the Choctaw Nation. I've had family on both sides of every single American war from the Revolution to World War II, and on the US side of every military engagement since.

I am saying this to demonstrate that it is absolutely, 100% possible to kill people and take their stuff and to engage in every manner of crime and war and war crime without the Objectively Lawfully Goodest God of Genocide and Hygiene holding your hand and telling you that you're a good boy. You can still play all the scenarios you ever played before, make all the same decisions you did before, in a world where orcs are simply violently unpleasant people who don't like your face.

And then you can tell other stories, too, like the dual-wielding CG orcish ranger who has rejected his evil society. Or... the CG orcish barbarian who's adventuring to get the wealth and allies needed to take over his evil society before his demihuman "allies" beat him to it. Or the CN orcish bard who doesn't give a pile of dead gnomes about his evil society. The orcish rogue who escaped from his human slavemasters, and wants to get rich enough in human society that they can't take him back.

See... and this sounds like it's all #2, but it isn't. Orcs were playable in Classic D&D via The Orcs of Thar (though, yiiiiikes, I hope they don't start censoring their old stuff because I love this one but yiiiiikes) and in AD&D via The Complete Book of Humanoids. Don't recall which book, but one of the early First Edition random encounter tables-- for a civilized urban area-- had a result for gangs of humanoids living right in the middle of the city. They might not get on well, they might not have much regard for the law--but they got there somehow and nobody else killed them yet.

Monstrous Player Characters are a part of D&D's legacy. They've been a part of D&D's legacy for longer than most of the people saying they ain't.
 
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Mercurius

Legend
Thanks for the reply, @FaerieGodfather. There's a lot there to digest, some of which I resonate with, some not so much--but that's ok and par for the course.

I just want to parse out one aspect, that of the "colonialist narrative." I agree that it is a largely unacknowledge elephant the room that creates a basic assumption to the game. To some degree that fits with the pre-modern aesthetic and fits the notion of play-acting Medieval crusaders or early modern explorers. Nothing wrong with that, with the caveat that I personally put limits on what sort of characters I want to play or games I want to DM (e.g. not a big fan of raping and pillaging, even in a fantasy context).

What I would add that in fantasy, there are other basic assumptions to draw from. That's part of the fun of it: you can create a world of your own making. For instance, for my own fictional world that I've been developing for years for a series of novels, I play with the idea of a non-Medieval fantasy that is closer to early modernity, with elements of the contemporary world, and thus has different assumptions. The point being, a specific campaign world can be designed in any number of ways, and it would be interesting to see WotC explore more variations than just the default pseudo-Medievalism--not just in terms of window-dressing, but the deeper assumptions about what "adventuring" is about.
 

bloodtide

Explorer
I feel the heritage of DnD can be safely ignored.

Not so much ignored: it is more that it does not exist. I get some people saying they "like x", but they sure can't say D&D has always had "x". I agree that the game should not be changed on a whim, but the game has already changed...years, if not decades ago.
that the gameplay narrative of heroic civilized people going into the wilderness to eradicate uncivilized people isn't problematic.

Except this is not the core of D&D? Sure over the past near 50 years some adventure plots have been that....but then tons of them have not been that. Going all the way back to 1E, the big adventures were Against the Giants and Against the Drow.....both civilized people.
Second, we can acknowledge that it's possible for "the pretty people" to be war with "the ugly people",

Again, not exactly a core D&D thing. Going way back elves have been at war with the drow AND other elves and humans, etc. The campgain settings are quite complex with such things.


And then you can tell other stories, too,

D&D based fiction has never been shy of telling such stories.

but one of the early First Edition random encounter tables-- for a civilized urban area-- had a result for gangs of humanoids living right in the middle of the city. They might not get on well, they might not have much regard for the law--but they got there somehow and nobody else killed them yet.

I'm pretty sure this book was called The Dungeonmasters Guide.
 

I just want to parse out one aspect, that of the "colonialist narrative." I agree that it is a largely unacknowledge elephant the room that creates a basic assumption to the game. To some degree that fits with the pre-modern aesthetic and fits the notion of play-acting Medieval crusaders or early modern explorers. Nothing wrong with that, with the caveat that I personally put limits on what sort of characters I want to play or games I want to DM (e.g. not a big fan of raping and pillaging, even in a fantasy context).

One of the problems with this, when compared to the real world, is that a vast majority of "evil" done by humans in war and expansionism is done in the name of religion. And while we could argue for the rest of our lives whether any of Earth's deities are real or not, in most fantasy settings they are very real to the PCs and NPCs. So if your god tells you to go and conquer your neighbor, you do it. And if you worship one of the darker deities that is morally grey or outright evil, you use all the horrible tools you can in your conquest. This is also why I do not participate in games where evil alignments are allowed. I don't want to be associated with any of that, even in an imaginary way.
 

Mercurius

Legend
One of the problems with this, when compared to the real world, is that a vast majority of "evil" done by humans in war and expansionism is done in the name of religion. And while we could argue for the rest of our lives whether any of Earth's deities are real or not, in most fantasy settings they are very real to the PCs and NPCs. So if your god tells you to go and conquer your neighbor, you do it. And if you worship one of the darker deities that is morally grey or outright evil, you use all the horrible tools you can in your conquest. This is also why I do not participate in games where evil alignments are allowed. I don't want to be associated with any of that, even in an imaginary way.

I hear you, and it is a good point. D&D--as a domain of fantasy and imagination--cannot, and generally does not, represent actual reality, in a similar way that a piece of art--unless it is photo-realistic (which I'm not a fan of)--doesn't accurately or exactly portray what it is representing. D&D, as I see it, is mythic: it deals in archetypes and ideas, not literal realities.

This, I think, is where a lot of the current concerns stem from, a perspective that art (D&D) must accurately represent life (real world ideas). Now D&D can be played that way, but that isn't the traditional default approach. There is a reason we like to play make-believe, so that we can explore other worlds.

I mean, who wants to play a D&D game where you have to wait in line at the fantasy version of the DMV? Or stuck in traffic? Paying taxes? Dealing with gout? ;)

As far as evil is concerned, I think where we both agree is that neither of us wants to inhabit the imaginative space of being evil, at least for too long. It is interesting to consider, and when I DM of course that is part of it, but a DM has greater distance between themselves and the monsters than a player and their character, if only because a DM takes on the roles of multiple creatures and people, all over the spectrum.
 


Right. You exclude the bigots, because they are a direct threat to an inclusive hobby.

Yes, if they refuse to change or just cannot keep their opinions to themselves. Sadly, we probably all know people like that and just do not know it because that person has never demonstrated those beliefs around us or maybe have never acted on them. Though in the social media age, it has become very hard for people to keep their mouths shut and act like they do not hate who they actually do hate. And even though there are people out there who are trying to fill the role, we do not have Thought Police yet.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yes, if they refuse to change or just cannot keep their opinions to themselves. Sadly, we probably all know people like that and just do not know it because that person has never demonstrated those beliefs around us or maybe have never acted on them. Though in the social media age, it has become very hard for people to keep their mouths shut and act like they do not hate who they actually do hate. And even though there are people out there who are trying to fill the role, we do not have Thought Police yet.
Sure. If the bigots know their ideology isn’t welcome anywhere, they won’t spout their bigotry, and fewer and fewer young people will be recruited, improving society.

My best friend in grade school and for years after, one of my groomsmen, who housed me when I was unemployed after the 08 recession hit my area especially hard (we had the highest unemployment in the nation, at one point), is no longer my friend, because he descended into the sort of abjectly stupid racism that drives a person to argue that one “race” is biologically less intelligent than another, and tried to quote the kind of crap you see on websites like stormfront.

There is no place for bigots in D&D.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I appreciate what the OP is trying to accomplish in this thread. I have some ideas.

- The -2 Int penalty for orc can go, and already has for Eberron orcs. Orcs being low IQ is not, I feel, a necessary part of their heritage. Not even Tolkien orcs would necessarily qualify as dumb to me, honestly.

- Different settings could and should have different depictions of races. FR halfings are good people, DS halflings are evil cannibalistic xenophobes. Greyhawk orcs should be allowed to be almost demonic, while Eberron orcs are just people.

- In worlds where Gruumsh is present, it may be a little easier to have 95% of orcs as evil. A literal god, a meddling one to boot, created this race and wants it to be like him. Gruumsh uses his power to actively influence orc society, and handsomely rewards the destruction of any orc tribe that chooses to defy his will. Think greek god levels of pettiness.

- So, if we established that orcish society can be almost monolithically evil in the right setting and with the right story, how to represent evil orcs well? We removed the -2 Int, so they're not dumb, primitive savages.
My take: all orcs have a powerful fury in their hearts.
Orcs that are evil (because of the influence of beings like Gruumsh or Iuz, or out of free choice) channel that fury for violent, wanton destruction, and they're little more than earthly demons.
Orcs that are good feel great, righteous fury in the face of evil and do everything in their power to stop it.
We might even have lawful neutral orcs being judge dredd types, and chaotic neutral orcs being true anarchists. Oh, and true neutral orcs might embody that strange "everything must be in balance" ideal that I hear was common in early D&D.
Bottom line, evil orcs are scary and dangerous. Good orcs are also scary and dangerous...to their foes.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Rolling back to the beginning

/snip
1) Do you agree that both "truths" are important and worth acknowledging and nourishing? If not, why not? If so, then...

No, I do not. Inclusivity trumps Heritage. If, at any point, a "Heritage" element impedes inclusivity, then the Heritage element has to be changed. That's just how it goes. We don't accept chainmail bikinis anymore. This is no different.

2) How to do so in a way that preserves/nourishes the core of both? What can and should be sacrificed? What shouldn't be?

Again, if something is impeding inclusivity, then it must be changed. That's the bottom line. It makes the most sense from a business perspective (appeal to a broader audience) and a moral one. There just is no argument here. Someone's interpretation of a fantasy element is NEVER more important than the living, breathing person at the table. Full stop.
3) If you adhere to one side or the other, what sort of concessions on your part do you feel are reasonable? What are not reasonable?

There can be no concessions here. You can't say, "Well, it's okay to be a little bit racist/bigoted/misogynistic." That's like saying it's okay to abuse your dog a little bit. Just don't kick the dog too much okay? It's ridiculous. And, I'm sorry, but the lack of empathy being shown here is shocking. That people would actually argue that it's MORE important that their fantasy orcs be irredeemably evil than making the game more inclusive to people is mind bogglingly selfish.

And, with that said, we have this:

People can't even agree on to which ethnic group orcs supposedly are connected, so how can you remove said connection without removing orcs entirely?

Right, @Derren, that's the issue. We cannot decide which ethnic group is being insulted, Asians or Blacks, (hey, guess what, IT'S BOTH!!!) and so, that's why we cannot remove the connections. :erm:

But, hey, keep being that force of change @Derren, one would hate to see consistency not rewarded.
 

1) Do you agree that both "truths" are important and worth acknowledging and nourishing? If not, why not? If so, then...

2) How to do so in a way that preserves/nourishes the core of both? What can and should be sacrificed? What shouldn't be?

3) If you adhere to one side or the other, what sort of concessions on your part do you feel are reasonable? What are not reasonable?

1) YES
2) For the instance n°2 Sacrifice Alignment restrictions rules or Alignment at all. For the instance n°1 leave everything past produced as is.
3) To modify things in the past is not reasonable. To modify things from now on making more inclusive is ok. But avoid paranoia and keep firm that if some thing could be overinterpreted, the problem is overinterpretation.
 
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A note: the description for orcs also matches some greek and roman descriptions for celtic and germanic tribes.
Obvious since Orcs are the stereoypes for Barbarian Invaders. And they were created as Orcs and not Black, German, Asian, Mongols etc just to avoid reference with a single folk in RL. So the whole Orc matter seems to me very odd.o_O
It is obviously a problem of overinterpretation. In Italy we say: "Malice is in the eyes of who is looking"
 

Derren

Hero
Right, @Derren, that's the issue. We cannot decide which ethnic group is being insulted, Asians or Blacks, (hey, guess what, IT'S BOTH!!!) and so, that's why we cannot remove the connections. :erm:

Or when people can't even agree on what is insulting it is a strong sign that the insult is imagined because people desperately want to find something to complain about.
 

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