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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity


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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That is my point about what is offensive only applying to monsters that qualify as a "person".
Well, if you are in the camp that thinks that the body shape is particularly important in deciding what is a person.

Meanwhile, you have the flumph - totally not humanoid, but traditionally benificently-natured and highly intelligent. Probably a person, no matter the body frame.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
It may contain offensive themes, but it doesn't really pertain to this discussion: As far as I'm aware the description is unlikely to be hurtful to a particular persecuted demographic. While the write-up is unpleasant, it doesn't seem to code for the way a particular group has been historically and still is referred to.
Here are some demographics that might be excluded from D&D due to its themes and its cost:
-LGBTQ
-Women
-underprivileged/Poor
-other Minorities

There are other issues when you include things like consent, violence and mental health.
 

Valchrys

Villager
Dude, why the obfuscation side dodges over and over and over?

You asked why Orc ’s are getting special attention. It was answered yet again. But here you are bringing up even more ludicrous examples that have nothing to do with the thread, heritage vs inclusivity in DnD or about the specific issues linked to the topic.

So I figure a few caps are warranted since you are obviously not listening.
TLDR: the problem of racism in D&D has different aspects which will probably require different solutions. None of the following is a judgment for any side, it's only an observation of the state of public discourse.

I think part of the problem is who are these solutions being addressed to? The player base in general? The portion of the player base involved in public debate? Or, media critics? A solution might be acceptable to players who are well versed in the mechanics and lore of the game but do nothing to address public criticism.

For example, we have this quote, “Racism isn’t just negative stereotypes; it is also an underlying belief that a particular group of people have something inherently in common with each other and also that they are also inherently different from other groups."

That's from Helen Young who is, for those that don't know, a professional medievalist who studies white supremacy in medieval literature. Why does she matter? Because the journalists who present the problem of racism in D&D to the public don't talk to players, they go to the loudest voices they can find, declare them experts and quote them. When it comes to WotC, it's going to be people like Dr Young who are going to be more influential on future design because she offers a clear solution and the designers have this stuff right in their face.

So, what's the problem with the Dr Young's quote? It works perfectly fine in the real world where race is a social construct. But, for a fantasy setting that postulates race is real and culture derives from it, the very question of what makes an orc an orc is racist. All that design scaffolding has to go in order to answer the media critics charge. Otherwise, no matter how palatable the changes to race are to the players, D&D will continue to accused of being racist at its core.

I'm sure many players will agree to get rid of the design and start over. To that, I would only say that I think a large reason for the success of D&D is that it easier to make it feel deeper than other RPG's that lacks the lore built into D&D. As to iterating to a solution, Dr Young's quote tells you what the solution is. I think you'll find you can stop iterating once the game satisfies her criticism and not before.
 

Valchrys

Villager
Again Eberron . . . the treatment of drow in Eberron is AMAZING. They are exotic, dark, maintain a classic feel, but are new, different, and not evil. Dark and often antagonistic, but not evil. We've got scorpion-god worshipping drow who practice scorpion-acid scarification tatoos, we've got fire-magic focused drow with bright red hair living in a volcano, and the Umbragen, an underdark (Khyber) dwelling culture of drow focused on shadow-magic . . . and it's implied there are more drow cultures waiting to be discovered . . . LOVE IT.
But what do you gain by making them drow? Couldn't you get the same effect by just making them human? They would even be easier to run as humans because you wouldn't have to look up different stat blocks.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But what do you gain by making them drow? Couldn't you get the same effect by just making them human? They would even be easier to run as humans because you wouldn't have to look up different stat blocks.
That same question held at all times, before this discussion arose. Since the origins of drow, we could ask, "What did you gain by using drow instead of humans?" and the answer was substantively the same in 1980 as it is today.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
That same question held at all times, before this discussion arose. Since the origins of drow, we could ask, "What did you gain by using drow instead of humans?" and the answer was substantively the same in 1980 as it is today.
Well, I don't agree with that for one major reason.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are genres that have define tropes. Within them is the concept of different tropes, notably, that there are other races/species/lifeforms/creatures that are defined both in terms of humanity, and also by exaggerated aspects of humanity.

This is easiest when you think of SciFi; canonically, you have the generic Star Trek Humanoid; an alien that looks remarkably similar to us (with maybe some more stuff on their forehead), living on a single planet that has a monolithic culture, and is defined by some traits that are an exaggeration of a human trait or two.

That's pretty much the same thing you have with all the base fantasy humanoids. They can be mostly of one alignment, with some exaggerated traits, and they help define us tell our stories of what it means to be human by being exaggerations or caricatures of certain aspects of humanity.

So what did Drow bring? An unknowable, evil, counterpart to the typical elves; an implacable, violent, enemy to shock and terrorize the PCs. A subversion of everything that most players were comfortable with (tra la la good elves in the forest).

Of course, when you think about this, or at least when I do, some of the issues with both Fantasy and even Sci Fi becomes apparent; one issue with racism is that it often employs stereotypes, exaggerations, and caricatures, and presents a diverse group as a monolithic whole (an "other.").

So it can become easy to see how the use of a SciFi/Fantasy trope might quickly delve into a raical/racist trope.
 

Honest question to those arguing against this change:

How does your point relate to the original post? Is Heritage or Inclusivity more important? Currently, it seems like you're arguing that heritage is more important.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
But what do you gain by making them drow? Couldn't you get the same effect by just making them human? They would even be easier to run as humans because you wouldn't have to look up different stat blocks.
That same question held at all times, before this discussion arose. Since the origins of drow, we could ask, "What did you gain by using drow instead of humans?" and the answer was substantively the same in 1980 as it is today.
Umbran's got it. Why are the classic drow an elven race and not a human race? Get rid of the pointy ears, slender frames, and longevity . . . . how are the drow substantially different than a dark-skinned race of evil humans?

One solution to the drow problem is to get rid of the drow and other problematic races, which to a degree, is all of them. But one of the joys of fantasy literature and gaming is exploring the archetypes of humanity through the lens of myth and story, the genre would be lessened without fantasy creatures and races. So the trick is to try to maintain this mythic quality and remove (as much as possible) the embedded racist tropes.

The point of the Umbragen, Sulatar, and Vulkoor drow cultures is, in part, the same point as the classic Lolth culture . . . to provide an exotic mirror to humanity. In addition, they provide variety and choice to DM's and players and help us move away from dark-skin as evil (although as noted, not entirely). Are adding these cultures to your game the perfect solution to the racist tropes of the drow race? No, but progress doesn't have to be complete and total all at once. Do adding these cultures balance out the Lolth "dark-skin is evil" drow culture? Nope, it remains problematic, which is why I would also advocate for a reimagining of drow Lolth culture to something more like the Eberron cultures, not really all that evil.
 

Valchrys

Villager
That same question held at all times, before this discussion arose. Since the origins of drow, we could ask, "What did you gain by using drow instead of humans?" and the answer was substantively the same in 1980 as it is today.
With things as they are now, you gain a common language. If I describe a drow to my players, they know something about that being that relates to the mythology of the world. They may not know what an individual drow might do or think but they do know that there's a goddess that teaches that the world belongs to the elves and everything else is subordinate. They know that drow society is matriarchal, they use slaves, have a strict sense of social station and the upper classes tend to be decadent. And that doesn't include all the common experience players have had with drow across many different games. There's a lot of information in being a drow that doesn't have to be communicated and helps make the world feel more realized.

If I homebrew something similar, all that information has to be packed up and delivered over time. I think that's why every other RPG I play, or even d&d homebrew campaign settings, feel so hopelessly shallow. But I admit that it's possible that using these stereotypes in this situation is wrong and it might be better to just run humans. I can't get away with that in public games though.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Most of the press regarding WotC's announcement about "evil races" has been simply to repeat what was in the press release. But here's an article from Forbes that goes a little further.

The relevant thesis quote is:
D&D’s elimination of evil races isn’t a storytelling limitation, but a shift in perspective that can only lead to more interesting, complex narratives.
I couldn't agree more!
 

As far as the evil from birth, that's why I proposed having a supernatural explanation that transforms them at a certain point if it's an issue for people. Kind of like the orc version of a Bat Mitzvah except marking the point where they're bound to Gruumsh instead of just entering adulthood. I also don't understand the gnoll thing. The first, original gnolls were hyenas but those are long dead*. Every living gnoll was born evil according to the lore in the MM.

It avoids the baby Hitler dilemma. Well, except that if you could go back in time why not just slip some birth control into Hitler's mother's tea starting about 10 months before Hitler was born. Stopping the pregnancy in the first place seems a lot more ethical to me.

*Or are they? Are there still primordial gnolls, the progenitors of the species still around exerting evil influence on their descendants. :unsure:
Check the Gnoll Fang of Yeenoghu and the Volo's write-up. They indicate that this is still how gnolls are created.


And the magical transformation at puberty doesn't really help the underlying issue, does it? Picture an Orcish 8 yr old. That kid is going to turn evil when he turns 16. It isn't his fault, he doesn't want to, he won't make that choice. But it will happen. 16 yrs old, and a switch will flip and he will start killing people.

So why not kill him now? Unless, he can choose to not turn evil. And in that case, why make it a mystical choice at all? Just make it a choice like every other race. Followers of Bane are evil , followers of Gruumsh are evil. We don't need humans to be bound to Bane at the age of 16 to justify them being evil, why do we need it for Orcs?



Honestly, I think you are sidestepping the issue completely (from my point of view) using definitional rhetoric.

Why are aboleths evil? Mind flayers? Dragons?

Ettercaps?

Meenlocks?

What about medusa? We are playing into both human-centric and (TBH, I am not trolling) misongynistic rhetoric with medusa that has long been repeated.

The poor Yeti? Or Harpy? What about a Beholder?

I could keep going, but you should get the idea. And it's not just "classical orcs and goblins," it orcs, goblins, yuan-ti, wererats, xvarts, nagpas, meazels, kuo toa, kobolds, grung (WHO WILL THINK OF THE GRUNG!) ...

the Githyanki, the Duregar, Bullywugs, and so on.

Again, if you want to make the aspirational argument (every intelligent creature can, unless possessed etc., make choices), that's fine! But there are a LOT of creatures to be changed.

Which, again, may be fine. I'm not sure. The game is changing, and I think that's a good thing. But I'm pretty sure @Dire Bare already pointed this out some time ago.

I get the point, but I also have to say that a lot of this is avoided by the definitions.

Meenlocks are born of fear and exist only to spread fear. They are fey spirits of nightmares. They exist as the personification of an idea, even within the game world. So, there is no problem with killing them. they are literally fear given flesh and you don't have to feel bad about killing fear.

Duergar though as super problematic, and I've just removed them from the game entirely. Their lore makes them the heroes who are in the right as far as I'm concerned, and I'd much rather just say those events with Moradin never happened and move on.

I treat Ettercaps just like spiders, only weird fey spiders. Likely servants of the Queen of Air and Darkness, so evil servants of an evil force. I could see them being created by dark magic infecting normal spiders.


Meazels and Nagpa are interesting. Nagpa are a group of 13 cursed evil wizards, not a race, and Meazels are a group that chose to hermitage and were warped to be evil and hateful by the shadowfell. Neither was born that way.

And we can keep going on. A lot of these creatures either lack anything to define them beyond monsters, are formed from the essence of evil, or are the result of dark magics (add Nothics to this list) and the choices those people made. So, there are actually much fewer instances to worry about than you seem to indicate.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I can't get away with that in public games though.
That's the point of stereotypes, to make communication and thought easier. Problem is, stereotyping tends to ignore how complicated life is, and easily leads to racism, as is the case with the portrayal of the drow.

Can you run a public game and play around with the classic D&D stereotypes? You sure can! Avoiding the use of stereotypes, especially ones that are a longstanding part of the game, isn't easy . . . but totally doable.

It'll be even easier when WotC publishes their changes to the various "evil races". Of course we'll have to wait and see what those changes will actually be, whether they will be substantial and meaningful, and whether we will like and accept them.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Do the people who are arguing "but what about X race?" or "aren't these people 'humanoid' too?" genuinely have a problem with how those creatures are presented or are they arguing it simply for the sake of arguing (in effect) the preservation of orcs as written? If it's the latter, then I'm not sure why we are bothering to entertain this line of discussion as long as we have.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This is easiest when you think of SciFi; canonically, you have the generic Star Trek Humanoid; an alien that looks remarkably similar to us (with maybe some more stuff on their forehead), living on a single planet that has a monolithic culture, and is defined by some traits that are an exaggeration of a human trait or two.
Yep. That's a very useful thing to have... when you are using them in the way sci fi typically did - creating a morality play.

However, I'm pretty sure drow weren't used for too many D&D morality plays, so...

So what did Drow bring? An unknowable...
Stop right there.

There's nothing "unknowable" about the drow. The traditional drow we are talking about, you know them in a couple of paragraphs. You can't have "monoculture defined by some traits that are an exageration of a human trait or two" and "unknowable" at the same time. The simplified monoculture is used because it is easy to grasp!

...evil, counterpart to the typical elves; an implacable, violent, enemy to shock and terrorize the PCs.
Interesting. Seeing as rapacious humans do all that very, very well.

A subversion of everything that most players were comfortable with (tra la la good elves in the forest).
Oh, so... Unseelie court. Not exactly unknowable there, either.

So it can become easy to see how the use of a SciFi/Fantasy trope might quickly delve into a raical/racist trope.
Yeah. Especially since the drow are pretty clearly lifted whole cloth from the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs (there seen as "Black Martians"), and while Burroughs was many things, his writing was kind of filled with Great White Savior stuff.
 

Do the people who are arguing "but what about X race?" or "aren't these people 'humanoid' too?" genuinely have a problem with how those creatures are presented or are they arguing it simply for the sake of arguing (in effect) the preservation of orcs as written? If it's the latter, then I'm not sure why we are bothering to entertain this line of discussion as long as we have.
Yeah, that's my point. The fact that they're doing this is a bit infuriating, but it is a valid question and discussion, but probably not on topic here.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
Stop right there.

There's nothing "unknowable" about the drow.
You said-

"Since the origins of drow, we could ask, "What did you gain by using drow instead of humans?" and the answer was substantively the same in 1980 as it is today."

To remind you, 1980 was before Fiend Folio. There was only D1, D2, and D3 expanding upon their first appearance in G3.

As for the rest, I will agree to disagree on it. It's obviously wrong from what I know and has been documented, from the Unseelie Court to the "Black Martians."

You can look at Dragon #31 if you want more details, but you don't seem interested in accuracy.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Do the people who are arguing "but what about X race?" or "aren't these people 'humanoid' too?" genuinely have a problem with how those creatures are presented or are they arguing it simply for the sake of arguing (in effect) the preservation of orcs as written? If it's the latter, then I'm not sure why we are bothering to entertain this line of discussion as long as we have.
I can't speak for anyone else, but there were several pages of arguments about what a person is. In my opinion either it's wrong for an intelligent self aware creature to be always evil or it's not.

As for "do I really have a problem", well no. I can see that there are some specific issues with depiction of orcs. I just don't have a problem with evil monsters, even the intelligent self aware ones. It's not reality, it's not attempting to be reality. It's a game.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
With things as they are now, you gain a common language. If I describe a drow to my players, they know something about that being that relates to the mythology of the world.
Okay, yes, that's one thing you actually lose - shorthand.

Mind you, that only applies to experienced players who have already been heavily exposed to the tropes. When 40% of the D&D population is under 25... I am not sure that shorthand is all that useful.

There's a lot of information in being a drow that doesn't have to be communicated and helps make the world feel more realized.
So, this may be personal preference, but relying on player assumptions does not, to me, make the world feel more realized. It makes the fictional world feel like a facade. It is quickly painted in broad strokes, like a stage set facade, giving me the implication of the background so that I don't have to worry too much about it, and I can concentrate on the action at hand.

Relying on standard tropes is the author/GM saying, "Don't worry about this, it is unimportant."

And if it is unimportant, then I could replace it, and it wouldn't really impact much.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Honest question to those arguing against this change:

How does your point relate to the original post? Is Heritage or Inclusivity more important? Currently, it seems like you're arguing that heritage is more important.
Why bother even asking? There are certain posters, such as myself, that accept that while all orcs are evil is a vast over-simplification of the real world, that's okay. D&D is chock full of vast over-simplifications. It's not the real world and neither are orcs. If there's specific wording or imagery that is problematic, fix it but taking away the concept of evil creatures (whether humanoid or not) would be adding needless complexity.

If you want the extra complexity in your campaign, add it in by the bucket load. Maybe there should be more info in the MM or a section in the DMG on monster alignments. Something more than a single paragraph in the MM intro that nobody reads.

On the other end you have people where it seems that they will only be satisfied if no intelligent creature has an alignment with possible exceptions based on the creature's fluff description. That in effect all humanoids are basically humans with a different masks and possibly unique cultures. That anything less is racism.

The problem that I have with that is that there is no room for compromise or inclusion of huge chunks of D&D's heritage. I mean, sure individual orcs can be evil, but the same can be said for individual humans as well. If you start saying specific cultural groups are evil no matter what race you are talking about I think you get into another type of bigotry.

So that's where it is after thousands of posts and where it will stand. WOTC will make their changes and we'll move on.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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