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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity

Coroc

Hero
I do like restrictions on race class and combos available, but not because of heritage only. I would never restrict someone from e.g. playing a person of color when choosing a human. But i would not allow someone chose a drow if that race is not included in my roster, just because someone says he identifies as one in RL.
Sexual orientation plays a minor role in the games i dm and it is totally up to the player to portray his character any way he likes for this aspect.
RL religion does not have a place in my games, also RL politics other than as satire element.
If someone wants to play a character with a disability i am fine with that.
The main reason i do install restrictions, is to increase challenge and match game world flavor, and to increase justification, why the PC would e.g. oppose another faction in game. E.g. it gets hard for the orc PC if the main antagonists are orcs in a given campaign.
In general i do not associate with people who are racist or intolerant, so using the game as a tool to create awareness of RL problems would be preaching to the choir in my case.
 

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Hussar

Legend
A note: the description for orcs also matches some greek and roman descriptions for celtic and germanic tribes.

Yes, but, there's the issue. We're not Romans or ancient Greeks.

Now, the fact that these depictions of orcs do directly match colonialist, racist depictions of blacks, virtually word for word, IS THE PROBLEM.

Gah, I'm so sick of this. We have the SAME bloody argument every single time the hobby starts becoming more inclusive. The EXACT same people were against changes to the art to make the game more inclusive. The EXACT same people were against changes to make the game more inclusive to the LGBTQ community. The EXACT same people, with the same tired old arguments getting trotted out over and over again, and every time being proven wrong.

Folks, aren't you tired of being wrong every single time?
 

Olrox17

Hero
Yes, but, there's the issue. We're not Romans or ancient Greeks.

Now, the fact that these depictions of orcs do directly match colonialist, racist depictions of blacks, virtually word for word, IS THE PROBLEM.
I'm a roman, but yes, we are not ancient romans or ancient greeks. We also aren't slave owners or slave traders. None of us are conquistadores or colonialists. Some of our ancestors were, and screw them.

Anyway, I believe this thread is more about proposing HOW to "fix" orcs and drow without obliterating their established lore. I proposed some fixes, and I would like to see others do the same. Otherwise, this thread will become the same as the other two.
Let's try to be constructive.

Gah, I'm so sick of this. We have the SAME bloody argument every single time the hobby starts becoming more inclusive. The EXACT same people were against changes to the art to make the game more inclusive. The EXACT same people were against changes to make the game more inclusive to the LGBTQ community. The EXACT same people, with the same tired old arguments getting trotted out over and over again, and every time being proven wrong.

Folks, aren't you tired of being wrong every single time?
I won't elaborate on this bit. It's inflammatory and adds nothing to the discussion.
 

Mercurius

Legend
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.

For one, I think you err in seeing the two as mutually exclusive or opposed. They aren't, or don't need to be. Another way to frame the original post is, how to preserve as much D&D heritage as possible while still making the game as inclusive as possible?

Secondly, I don't agree that this is the same thing as chainmail bikinis, at least in most cases being discussed. Chainmail bikinis are overtly sexualized depictions of women--there is no way to refute that, no interpretation needed. People can disagree on whether it is good or bad, but there is no denying the fact that it is an actual woman, depicted in a sexualized way (with ludicrous "armor," to boot).

As I said in a response to you in another thread, equating orcs with a specific ethnic group is an act of interpretation. Orcs are not depicted in a way to equate them with any particular ethnic group, without a rather large leap of imagination (and reinforcement of stereotypes). Drow have a few more problematic areas that can be, and have been to a large extent, addressed: removing the "curse = dark skin" lore, clarifying that their skin is obsidian black and/or grayscale, not brown. That's probably all that's really problematic enough to change or clarify. I won't comment on the Vistani because I don't know them well enough.

Again, if something is impeding inclusivity, then it must be changed.

I agree, like reinforcing the tenuous (at best) connection between orcs and specific stereotypes.

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.

I agree, but different living, breathing people have different interpretations. If WotC is guided by the most offended person at any table, then the game would be changed beyond recognition.

I worked at a private high school some years ago and observed that policy decisions were often dictated by the sensibilities of the most culturally conservative person in the room, be it a parent or teacher. In some cases we changed policy (for better or worse), but in other cases we held the line, when we felt like it was necessary to preserve the integrity of the school and the type of environment we were trying to foster. If we gave in to every single concern, the end result would have been an extremely narrow, rigid, and controlled school environment.

I think the same applies to D&D. Some change is necessary, but some change can damage the game.

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.

I haven't seen anyone say anything like that, or argue that "a little bit of racism is OK." Well, maybe one or two folks. This is a misperception of different views, Hussar. Please refer to my reply to in the other thread.

The disagreement is not whether racism is OK or not, it is to what degree racism is present.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I'm sorry, no, you aren't Roman. You're Italian, sure, but you aren't Roman. You don't speak Latin. You don't worship Roman gods. You certainly don't eat Roman food. At best, you could possibly trace a lineage back, but, then again, I probably could too. Bringing up the fact that Romans might have used this depiction too is nothing but a red herring to derail conversation.

But, yes, how do we fix this? Well, it's fairly simple. Instead of treating orcs as monolithic evil, we present them in various lights, doing various things. It's not exactly rocket science. You will never be able to completely change the lore around orcs, but, you can certainly add to it to depict a more robust, expanded lore that doesn't revolve around the whole "evil savage out to take our womenfolk" that orcs have been presented as previously.
 

Derren

Hero
I'm sorry, no, you aren't Roman. You're Italian, sure, but you aren't Roman. You don't speak Latin. You don't worship Roman gods. You certainly don't eat Roman food. At best, you could possibly trace a lineage back, but, then again, I probably could too. Bringing up the fact that Romans might have used this depiction too is nothing but a red herring to derail conversation.

It isn't, you only don't want to acknowledge it because it would bring your argument crashing down.
He isn't Roman the same way no one today is a British/European, Arab or African slave trader.
 


Mercurius

Legend
@Mercurious - we are simply not going to agree then. When you can hold up the description of orcs in the Monster Manual and it's virtually word for word identical to racist screeds of the early 20th century, that's not tenuous. So, yeah, we aren't going to be able to have a discussion here because you and I will not agree on this point.

Fair enough, but I'd like to address this point. To be clear, I don't disagree that there is similarity between the depiction of orcs and racist stereotypes. I disagree that this ties orcs to the ethnic groups in question, because the racist stereotypes have nothing to do with actual ethnic groups and everything to do with racial hatred and perception of the "evil other." The view of orcs espoused in the D&D text, which I assume is meant to represent the consensus view of character races, is similar to the view of certain racists whites towards non-whites. That actually makes a certain degree of sense, based upon folklore, D&D lore and the traditional role of orcs as the primary evil race.

Why is having an "evil other"--especially a non-human evil other--inherently problematic in a fantasy game to which fighting evil is a central tenet?

If this is a problem, it means that the whole notion of the "evil other" or evil monsters is a problem. I agree that it most certainly is in real life, but in a mythic fantasy game? If orcs are humanized and "brought into the fold," so to speak, why not extend the olive branch further? What about kobolds, gnolls, goblins, etc? What about dragons, even demons and devils, who often manifest in humanoid form?

As I said elsewhere, I like varying core assumptions and making my own versions of monsters and races. I don't think any monster or race has to conform to the traditional D&D trope. But I also don't see a problem with evil races in the context of a fantasy roleplaying game, which is more based on myth and folklore--in which there are evil creatures and spirits--than it is on real world anthropology.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I'm sorry, no, you aren't Roman. You're Italian, sure, but you aren't Roman. You don't speak Latin. You don't worship Roman gods. You certainly don't eat Roman food. At best, you could possibly trace a lineage back, but, then again, I probably could too. Bringing up the fact that Romans might have used this depiction too is nothing but a red herring to derail conversation.
Do not presume to tell me who I am. I was born in Rome, raised in Rome, I live in Rome. I can speak the roman italian dialect, and have studied latin at school. I am a roman, and an italian citizen. You don't know Italy and how its regional cultures work.
You're being as culturally insensitive as many of the ideologies you claim to oppose.
But, yes, how do we fix this? Well, it's fairly simple. Instead of treating orcs as monolithic evil, we present them in various lights, doing various things. It's not exactly rocket science. You will never be able to completely change the lore around orcs, but, you can certainly add to it to depict a more robust, expanded lore that doesn't revolve around the whole "evil savage out to take our womenfolk" that orcs have been presented as previously.
I'm all for adding stuff, less so for taking stuff away. Demonic evil orcs have a place in the game, and so do "normal folk" orcs. I've said before, Warcraft is a good example with how to handle orcs.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
As I've said before, at the end of the day it doesn't even matter. WotC will make the decision to re-write certain parts of the Player's Handbook in the Races/Peoples/Ancestries section (whatever they end up calling it) that removes default assumptions about the peoples involved that they feel are problematic. That's because that's where the idea of "all" of creature type X are a certain way are usually highlighted for the game as a whole. With a rewrite in this fashion, it will allow new people to the hobby to read these sections and see a New Norm about how most of these races/peoples/ancestries are presented.

Then... in any subsequent book wherein the races/peoples/ancestries are different than this New Norm (like the campaign settings where orcs are irredeemingly evil), that book can highlight the change. Halflings in Athas are cannibals? No reason to note it in the Player's Handbook that this is a thing... let the Dark Sun campaign book point it out.

The fact is... no one who cares about the Heritage of Dungeons & Dragons needs to see it appear in a new Player's Handbook anyway, because those players are going to play their games in the way they like regardless of what it written therein. Whatever appears in the first few paragraphs of the Half-Orc section (if indeed half-orcs even remain in the game instead of being replaced by Orcs themselves) they can be subsequently ignored if it doesn't match up with a player's classic interpretation.

No one will stop you from playing your D&D game that way, which means at the same time you don't need to have your desires catered to in the baseline of the main books. There's really no point, other than you getting a little buzz of good feeling that "Yay, WotC agrees with my worldview!" when you read a couple paragraphs in the PHB. Unfortunately for you though... it doesn't appear that WotC agrees with your worldview of the game anymore. Sorry. You had a good run... 40 years or so... but now you'll have to just play the game the way you want yourself without WotC patting you on the back about it.
 
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delphonso

Explorer
This thread: big oof.

I'd say it's worth mentioning that part of the 'heritage' of DnD is that it was often a place for the socially rejected (bullied, nerds, goths, queer) to express and experiment socially during middle/high school. DnD is not only a hobby for adults, it's also a game for kids. Some of my LGBTQ friends first had their characters in homosexual relationships etc before trying it in real life themselves. Roleplay is a generally safe place to learn more about yourself.

This crowd can also be exclusionary, whether from fear of being hurt or a desire to lash out/bully in the way people do when the target of bullying.

But I would hope many of us agree that largely the Heritage of DnD (or really, the practice of roleplaying) IS Inclusivity.
 

No they couldn't. The whole current debate was sparked by the fact that up until recently you couldn't play an orc who wasn't evil and stupid, and now you can.

According to The Complete Book of Humanoids (p. 49), an orc has a maximum Intelligence score of 16 and tends to lawful evil. The same source states that PC orcs can be of any alignment. 1e is not my thing, but I'm pretty sure your statement has been wrong for at least 25+ years.
 

Mark Hope

Adventurer
According to The Complete Book of Humanoids (p. 49), an orc has a maximum Intelligence score of 16 and tends to lawful evil. The same source states that PC orcs can be of any alignment. 1e is not my thing, but I'm pretty sure your statement has been wrong for at least 25+ years.
Yeah, just on this point alone, AD&D orcs and half-orcs didn't have an Int penalty at all (WotC added that in 3e, and removing it is a good thing) and the Complete Book of Humanoids explicitly says "PC orcs and half-orcs may be of any alignment" (p 49). Evil stupid orc PCs is not a thing in early editions.
 


To add something I've not talked about in the two previous threads: I believe a huge part of D&D's appeal, at least for me and my fellow players (and I play/run D&D in a very inclusive environment, not that it matters for the sake of this discussion), rests on the ability to bring to our favorite hobby - not emulate, properly, because D&D does it pretty badly - the tales of Tolkien, Howard, LeGuin*, and many others who could be seen as "problematic" in the current environment.

I see myself strongly in the middle of the way for this discussion because I don't want anyone to feel excluded, but I don't believe what means and what doesn't mean to exclude someone can rest exclusively on how that person feels; there must be space for reasonable dialog, and we must move from there. We moved away from terrible tropes such as the chainmail bikini and the damsel in distress through reasonable discussion. D&D art used to depict drows as black elves, it was reasonable discussion that allowed us to move forward on that.

On a subjective level, anybody is allowed to be offended by anything. The discussion about what must leave the game because it's preventing some people from enjoying it must be grounded on stronger reasons.

*Yeah, even LeGuin. Don't forget she's a white woman writing about a black protagonist.
 


TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
At some point you have to exclude those who refuse to change, though. Do you want to be so inclusive that you have a table with a Leftist and an Alt-right and an LGBT ally and a homophobe, etc?

This has nothing to do with the WotC or Dungeons & Dragons. Putting racism aside, you're going to play with people you enjoy playing with and you'll stop playing with people you don't enjoy playing with. If the Leftist and Alt-right keep bringing up their real-world politics and can't get along, they won't play together anymore. OTOH, if the group decides they want to explore challenging subject matter they can explore all kinds of stories that challenge their normal world view. Who knows, maybe people will change their minds on things. But, really, that's up to the people at the table.

I'd say it's worth mentioning that part of the 'heritage' of DnD is that it was often a place for the socially rejected (bullied, nerds, goths, queer) to express and experiment socially during middle/high school. DnD is not only a hobby for adults, it's also a game for kids. Some of my LGBTQ friends first had their characters in homosexual relationships etc before trying it in real life themselves. Roleplay is a generally safe place to learn more about yourself.

This crowd can also be exclusionary, whether from fear of being hurt or a desire to lash out/bully in the way people do when the target of bullying.

But I would hope many of us agree that largely the Heritage of DnD (or really, the practice of roleplaying) IS Inclusivity.
This.

@Hussar It's funny how you perceive Orcish stereotypes. I actually thought Orcs were more Nordic Invader/Celtic Barbarian stereotypes. I'm actually Scottish if you go back far enough and the Celts were crapped on pretty huge by the Romans and then again by the Brits and, generally, considered barbarians, so the colonialist/barbarian stereotype seems to be(by design or by accident) a part of the Orc Theme, especially if it invokes that emotion in people of all kinds of cultural backgrounds. It just depends from what lens you're looking at it. Do you remove it? Well, back to my previous point, it depends what stories you want to explore.

I think there's lots to be said about exploring racism and bigotry as long as you don't glorify it. But people are going to do what what they want to do at their own tables. There's not much WotC can do.

Back to the original post:
What is the responsibility of WotC?

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.

Some questions to be explored could be:

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?
So, I was going to type a bunch of stuff but I'd kind of stopped reading the other two threads because I couldn't keep up so now I'm not sure if anything I'm going to type here will rehash things in the other threads.

1 and 2 aren't mutually exclusive. I think that's obvious. Just make mechanics that let people play the game they want to play. People are going to want content, though. It's how you get inspiration - look at Volo's. Give them content but just be sure that it's obvious to new players that they're allowed to change anything they want and that nothing is written in stone.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think D&D has made great strides over the years to be more inclusive. For a long time it was difficult to find an image of a woman that was not hypersexualized, or where the men were not blond haired and blue eyed. So the heritage of cheesecake art? We can pass.

But inclusivity? It's difficult. In my home campaign I always envision light skinned northern-european types being primarily limited to one corner of the world. But ... then pretty much every campaign is in that corner and when it's not I don't make a huge effort to point out the black hair and darker complexion. All my "hero" minis are still painted with "light tan".

That doesn't really mean much to the broader community or the game, but I do notice the same tendency in much of the published material. I'm not an FR fan, but my impression is that it is dominated by white males with a few token regions for other ethnicities thrown in.

People tend to write what they know and what they see around them. For a long time, D&D has been primarily dominated by one group so consciously or not they've mirrored their own image onto the world. So I think having more diversity of staff, writers and artists is a good thing.

Heritage I think is important because there are certain tropes in D&D that make it work for a lot of people. A lot of people (including my current group which includes people of various ages) like having a fairly clear morality most of the time. If I know that I'm fighting evil monsters, great. I'm fighting evil monsters. It makes those times where I'm fighting someone or something that has gray areas stand out.

There is no one true way, no one vision that is going to work for everyone, I want options (not just in my personal home campaign) that support a wide variety of play styles. Hopefully we can come up with a way forward where we improve things while not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
 

aco175

Hero
I would like Wizards to make a book with all the player character races in it, maybe call it the Player's Handbook (PHB). These races are used to make characters, call them PCs- (player characters, not politically correct). Another book can contain all the opposing peoples and monsters (if we can use that word). Call this book the Monster Manual (MM). The players have the PHB races and the DM has the MM races, plus is able to use the PHB races as monsters if chosen.

Now if Wizards wants to have certain races, or all the races, in the MM be able to be used as player races they can make it so. They can make a new book for 5e that allows this and gives clarity to how these are different than the 'traditional' found in the MM. Worlds can have some of this as well, like Eberon or Dark Sun with the new or expanded races in their world book.

Now where this gets totally weird is that I can make up my own world for my own fun and populate it with anything I want and play with whomever I want. I can make new rules for any of the races to be used for players or monsters. If I want all my orcs to have +2 Int or -2 Int, I can. When it comes to play, the other players will be playing with me or choose to play someplace else if they do not like they way I made my world or home rules. This will either confirm that what I'm doing is ok, or leave me by myself, hopefully thinking about making changes so I can play nicely with others again.
 

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