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General Two underlying truths: D&D heritage and inclusivity

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
We're not allowed to discuss if it is or isn't racist. All we know is that people complained about it, and it's being changed. I doubt WotC would change something major if it wasn't a significant complaint.

I wasn't talking about this specific subject. You simply said that something is always racist if someone says it is. That's wrong. Something is or is not racist because it is or is not racist, not because someone says so.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Prioritizing heritage over inclusivity feels like gate-keeping to me - and when not talking about literal gates, I'm opposed to gate-keeping on principle.
For me it depends on the gate. For example, I think people should be able to have a yacht club if they want one, even though that keeps out more than 99% of the world.
 

I honestly can't tell whether a) you're speaking as a Dwarf here and saying Duergar have to go in the fiction, or b) you've an issue with how Duergar and-or their lore are presented and are thus saying they have to go in reality.

If a), all is good. :)

If b), please elaborate.


Much closer to B.

Frankly, I find it stupid storytelling and an abysmal mark upon the dwarves. I also, for the record, hate the connection between Ghouls and Elves.

The idea that this elf turned against the Elven gods, cannabalized his own kind and served the Demon Prince of the Undead willingly and without question, then, when Orcus betrays him and leaves him the die and he says "pretty please, I'm sorry, please save my life" the Elven Gods actually save him almost physically pains me.

I'm not against a redemption story, but redemption because you begged for your life, so all your haneous acts are just, magically forgiven, and this is the reason Ghoul's can't paralyze Elves in 5e? Monumentally stupid. And I excised it from my games.


So, the problem with the Duergar is mostly that it is terrible storytelling when taken as a whole (a reminder, this is the 5e story, and I've never heard a different version). They are close to being a good tale, but miss the mark in some key ways. Mordenkainen's tome even hints at this at the very begining, saying "To Impartial Observers, the ancient war... is at its heart a tragedy"

And they have a good set-up for a tragedy. The Duergar clan became obsessed with digging for a great trove of treasure "just below the surface" and the obssession led to every member of the clan working to dig, nothing else was done, dwarves fell over dead from exhaustion, they were single-mindedly obsessed with the treasure they were seeking.

But, when they finally broke through, they discovered the treasure was a trap, a psychic lure a massive Elder Brain and its mindflayer colony had sent out specifically to trick them, lure them with this obsession and weed out the weak.

So, they were captured, enslaved, and experimented on in brutal fashion. Eventually a leader arose, made a deal with Asmodeus to help him against Lolth's plans for the Underdark, and they broke free to rejoin their "surface" brethren.

To find out that the dwarves had long ago labeled the entire clan heretics, and that they were a morality lesson about straying from Moradin's teachings. The Duergar protested, the Dwarves claimed Moradin had sent omens to warn them. Even worse, when envoys from the other clans came, they found no sign of illness or war, so only laziness, greed and contempt for Moradin could explain their disappearance. He tried to explain that they were psychically trapped and lured away, and the dwarves refused to listen.

So, there is our scenario. The Dwarves say that only being lazy, greedy heretics could have led the Duergar to disappear and stop tending the shrines to Moradin. The Duergar point out they were literally drawn into a psychic trap by powerful abberations and had no hope of breaking free themselves, plus they were enslaved and tormented for centuries until breaking free themselves, with no help from Moradin.

A great tragedy right, and it makes it seem like there is a story that can be told about Moradin's negligence towards the lost clan, or the dwarves being unwilling to listen. It could even be a small story about anger taken too far. Except for a few problematic things.

Duergar are Evil. They are villains of the story. Dwarves are still a Good race. This signals to us that we are supposed to side with the Dwarves.

Even more, the dwarves are described thusly "dwarves loyal to Moradin take joy in the art of crafting and form strong family bonds" they "toil for love of industry" in a "joyful cycle of creation"

The Duergar? They are "joyless, hateful creatures who create their works out of an urge to build and acquire. They come closest to feeling true joy when they raid dwarven strongholds to satisfy their lust for blood and treasure" The book says "In many ways, the culture of the Duergar is fundamentally hollow" but it also drives the point home that this isn't fully on them because "Duergar have no appreciation for beauty, that ability having been erased from their minds by the Mind Flayers long ago and any thought of recapturing it obliterated by Moradin's betrayal"

They even have forbidden "displays of happiness, contentedness, and trust"


So, what we have is a society of victims, lured away by magic and psychic trickery, abandoned by their god and denounced by their people because of this.... and they are the bad guys, joyless, hateful and greedy. While the people who abandoned them, who never helped them, are master craftsmen in joyful cycle of creation and seeking perfection for the joy of a good days work.

I honestly cannot think of a more egregious example of blaming the victim. In the story there is no mention of Moradin's sign being ignored or envoys being turned away, all of that is revealed after the Duergar return to the Dwarves, hoping to rejoin their brethren away from the dark depths where they were enslaved. So, we have no reason to doubt the Duergar's claims, no reason to see that it was somehow their fault that this occurred, and nothing to indicate that they were somehow too dangerous or unwilling to work with the dwarves when they arrived on the surface. They came seeking their brethren, only to be told they had been abandoned centuries ago because clearly they weren't good enough dwarves.

It is just ugly, and siding with the dwarves is what the text wants you to do, because they have all the positive qualities. The Duergar are left with nothing but hatred and bitterness, after their warping by the Mind Flayers and abandonment by everyone else. And you can't side with them, because they are horrible, terrible and must be stopped.

I just hate the entire thing.
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
For me it depends on the gate. For example, I think people should be able to have a yacht club if they want one, even though that keeps out more than 99% of the world.
If you think the existence of a yacht club is the same as the gatekeeping I'm talking about, I'm afraid you've aggressively missed the point.

To use your example to illustrate: a yacht club with no gatekeeping would be one which any yacht owner is allowed to join. Contrast that to a yacht club that you can only join if an existing member specifically invites you, or one which has a review board for entry applications that can say anything to the equivalent of "yes, you have a yacht... but are you really a yacht person?" That is what gatekeeping is.
 

Much closer to B.

Frankly, I find it stupid storytelling and an abysmal mark upon the dwarves. I also, for the record, hate the connection between Ghouls and Elves.

The idea that this elf turned against the Elven gods, cannabalized his own kind and served the Demon Prince of the Undead willingly and without question, then, when Orcus betrays him and leaves him the die and he says "pretty please, I'm sorry, please save my life" the Elven Gods actually save him almost physically pains me.

I'm not against a redemption story, but redemption because you begged for your life, so all your haneous acts are just, magically forgiven, and this is the reason Ghoul's can't paralyze Elves in 5e? Monumentally stupid. And I excised it from my games.


So, the problem with the Duergar is mostly that it is terrible storytelling when taken as a whole (a reminder, this is the 5e story, and I've never heard a different version). They are close to being a good tale, but miss the mark in some key ways. Mordenkainen's tome even hints at this at the very begining, saying "To Impartial Observers, the ancient war... is at its heart a tragedy"

And they have a good set-up for a tragedy. The Duergar clan became obsessed with digging for a great trove of treasure "just below the surface" and the obssession led to every member of the clan working to dig, nothing else was done, dwarves fell over dead from exhaustion, they were single-mindedly obsessed with the treasure they were seeking.

But, when they finally broke through, they discovered the treasure was a trap, a psychic lure a massive Elder Brain and its mindflayer colony had sent out specifically to trick them, lure them with this obsession and weed out the weak.

So, they were captured, enslaved, and experimented on in brutal fashion. Eventually a leader arose, made a deal with Asmodeus to help him against Lolth's plans for the Underdark, and they broke free to rejoin their "surface" brethren.

To find out that the dwarves had long ago labeled the entire clan heretics, and that they were a morality lesson about straying from Moradin's teachings. The Duergar protested, the Dwarves claimed Moradin had sent omens to warn them. Even worse, when envoys from the other clans came, they found no sign of illness or war, so only laziness, greed and contempt for Moradin could explain their disappearance. He tried to explain that they were psychically trapped and lured away, and the dwarves refused to listen.

So, there is our scenario. The Dwarves say that only being lazy, greedy heretics could have led the Duergar to disappear and stop tending the shrines to Moradin. The Duergar point out they were literally drawn into a psychic trap by powerful abberations and had no hope of breaking free themselves, plus they were enslaved and tormented for centuries until breaking free themselves, with no help from Moradin.

A great tragedy right, and it makes it seem like there is a story that can be told about Moradin's negligence towards the lost clan, or the dwarves being unwilling to listen. It could even be a small story about anger taken too far. Except for a few problematic things.

Duergar are Evil. They are villains of the story. Dwarves are still a Good race. This signals to us that we are supposed to side with the Dwarves.

Even more, the dwarves are described thusly "dwarves loyal to Moradin take joy in the art of crafting and form strong family bonds" they "toil for love of industry" in a "joyful cycle of creation"

The Duergar? They are "joyless, hateful creatures who create their works out of an urge to build and acquire. They come closest to feeling true joy when they raid dwarven strongholds to satisfy their lust for blood and treasure" The book says "In many ways, the culture of the Duergar is fundamentally hollow" but it also drives the point home that this isn't fully on them because "Duergar have no appreciation for beauty, that ability having been erased from their minds by the Mind Flayers long ago and any thought of recapturing it obliterated by Moradin's betrayal"

They even have forbidden "displays of happiness, contentedness, and trust"


So, what we have is a society of victims, lured away by magic and psychic trickery, abandoned by their god and denounced by their people because of this.... and they are the bad guys, joyless, hateful and greedy. While the people who abandoned them, who never helped them, are master craftsmen in joyful cycle of creation and seeking perfection for the joy of a good days work.

I honestly cannot think of a more egregious example of blaming the victim. In the story there is no mention of Moradin's sign being ignored or envoys being turned away, all of that is revealed after the Duergar return to the Dwarves, hoping to rejoin their brethren away from the dark depths where they were enslaved. So, we have no reason to doubt the Duergar's claims, no reason to see that it was somehow their fault that this occurred, and nothing to indicate that they were somehow too dangerous or unwilling to work with the dwarves when they arrived on the surface. They came seeking their brethren, only to be told they had been abandoned centuries ago because clearly they weren't good enough dwarves.

It is just ugly, and siding with the dwarves is what the text wants you to do, because they have all the positive qualities. The Duergar are left with nothing but hatred and bitterness, after their warping by the Mind Flayers and abandonment by everyone else. And you can't side with them, because they are horrible, terrible and must be stopped.

I just hate the entire thing.
I agree. The story is broken. I don't think anyone's meant to sympathize with the the Dwarves, though. I'm all for changing it so Duergar and Dwarves get a happy ending, but in order for the Forgotten Realms to have Duergar, Orcs, Drow, and Goblinoids become not inherently evil, there's probably going to have to be another major disaster event on Toril, probably involving the deaths of Gruumsh, Lolth, Maglubiet, Laduergar and the other evil racial deities, or them just losing power or being banished.

I think such an event could be interesting, and the Forgotten Realms are no stranger to cataclysmic disasters that change the structure of the world, races on it, and planar cosmology, but I don't know if WotC would go this route. I think it would be interesting and positive, but I think there would be pushback from parts of the community.
 

There's ways to do interesting things with the Duergar. Way I see it? Thats story is how dwarves tell it. Truth of it is much messier, and my favourite is quite simple: The gods couldn't do -anything- due to Mind Flayers being Mind Flayers and managing to sever the link, just flat out hiding them from divine presences, and a chance meeting up of the two resulted in someone saying something stupid and things devolving to the current situation

Reconcilation between the two is possible but not gonna be easy and it'd take centuries. But its possible
 

I agree. The story is broken. I don't think anyone's meant to sympathize with the the Dwarves, though. I'm all for changing it so Duergar and Dwarves get a happy ending, but in order for the Forgotten Realms to have Duergar, Orcs, Drow, and Goblinoids become not inherently evil, there's probably going to have to be another major disaster event on Toril, probably involving the deaths of Gruumsh, Lolth, Maglubiet, Laduergar and the other evil racial deities, or them just losing power or being banished.

I think such an event could be interesting, and the Forgotten Realms are no stranger to cataclysmic disasters that change the structure of the world, races on it, and planar cosmology, but I don't know if WotC would go this route. I think it would be interesting and positive, but I think there would be pushback from parts of the community.

Oh, I agree, and I'm not advocating for any official action on that part. @Lanefan just asked me to elaborate on my issues with them.

There's ways to do interesting things with the Duergar. Way I see it? Thats story is how dwarves tell it. Truth of it is much messier, and my favourite is quite simple: The gods couldn't do -anything- due to Mind Flayers being Mind Flayers and managing to sever the link, just flat out hiding them from divine presences, and a chance meeting up of the two resulted in someone saying something stupid and things devolving to the current situation

Reconcilation between the two is possible but not gonna be easy and it'd take centuries. But its possible

In my mind, that runs into a problem with timing, but again. I'm not asking anything to be changed officially. Just expressing disgust for it because I was asked.
 

In my mind, that runs into a problem with timing, but again. I'm not asking anything to be changed officially. Just expressing disgust for it because I was asked.
Def a problem with timing, but I could see it as a campaign thing, especially given "Get the various elves back together" has been a bit of an undercurrent in some Drow stuff, what with two separate deities being involved in that

Technically Warcraft's had it going for years, given its not-Duergars, the Dark Irons, are pretty chummy with the other dwarves nowerdays, but that's Warcraft
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I think there's a chance that what happened regarding duergar - them ending up with an origin story that doesn't mesh with their portrayal as hateful, evil beings - was that someone got tapped to write a new story for them and didn't make sure that story lined up with other present information, and nobody changed that other info to match up either.

Because looking into the Complete Book of Dwarves from back in the day, you get this paragraph: "Duergar may at one time have lived with other dwarves before they were driven into the deep for their worship of evil gods. They may have been created by the evil gods to balance the races of lawful good dwarves. If that is the case, they will have a divine mission to eradicate or enslave all dwarves of good alignment."

Along each edition since then, changes and additions are made (such as in 4th edition them getting quills in their beards) and I don't think someone is taking a good look at the overview of things to make sure all the disparate entrees that mention a specific creature are actually compatible with each other.
 

Yeah, I agree @Chaosmancer. I'm aware you were just answering a question, but I think we could pursue this topic further (Based on the fact that no one really answered my question, I think I'll drop it).

I think it's a dumb argument to say "If we're changing the Drow and Orcs, why not every other monster" but I think we should consider the other races as well, just to make them more open. Duergar are a glaring example of this, as well as goblinoids.

I believe that if they were to revise Orcs and Drow in another catastrophically world-changing event in Forgotten Realms, they should take the opportunity to do this for Goblinoids, Duergar, and other races depicted similarly.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If you think the existence of a yacht club is the same as the gatekeeping I'm talking about, I'm afraid you've aggressively missed the point.

You said "gate-keeping on principle." That means any gatekeeping, not just specific gatekeeping you are against.

To use your example to illustrate: a yacht club with no gatekeeping would be one which any yacht owner is allowed to join. Contrast that to a yacht club that you can only join if an existing member specifically invites you, or one which has a review board for entry applications that can say anything to the equivalent of "yes, you have a yacht... but are you really a yacht person?" That is what gatekeeping is.
A yacht club keeps out anyone without a yacht, even those who want to join. All you're doing there is showing two different types of gatekeeping. One you don't mind and one that you do.
 

One odd thing with Goblins for me, is that their "an evil deity made me" story is a bit more... palatable?

It is definitely still not great, but the fact that Magbuliyet is an unknown entity, who killed their gods and took goblins to force them to become one people. And the fragments of the gods are still fighting back.... I can see more fun things coming out of them.

I just drop the cowardice for goblins and lean into the "soldier society" of hobgoblins. They have massive cities after all, so there are a lot of implicit things that must be happening in the background for Hobgoblins to function well, and since I've never seen a spotlight put on them, anything troubling with their depictions hasn't been obvious to me
 

Mercurius

Legend
There's ways to do interesting things with the Duergar. Way I see it? Thats story is how dwarves tell it. Truth of it is much messier, and my favourite is quite simple: The gods couldn't do -anything- due to Mind Flayers being Mind Flayers and managing to sever the link, just flat out hiding them from divine presences, and a chance meeting up of the two resulted in someone saying something stupid and things devolving to the current situation

Reconcilation between the two is possible but not gonna be easy and it'd take centuries. But its possible

This is good and makes for an interesting story arc. Hook: PCs are approached by a desperate duergar who has, somehow, freed him/herself from the psychic enslavement that the mind flayers still hold on the duergar (if only as a hereditary "psychic virus"). Perhaps one of the players can play this duergar. The PCs then go on a quest to free the duergar.

As far the victim thing goes, @Chaosmancer , I think your problem is more a matter of overly connecting fantasy and reality. Let fantasy be an imaginative playground in its own right, without having to strain everything through the sieve of real-life ideology and ethics. The whole point of role-play is to take on a role within an imaginary world, to engage in the world as it is, not as our world is. Sure, there are symbolic elements, but being too concrete about them leads to over "allegorizing" and leads us out of fantasy immersion.
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
You said "gate-keeping on principle." That means any gatekeeping, not just specific gatekeeping you are against.


A yacht club keeps out anyone without a yacht, even those who want to join. All you're doing there is showing two different types of gatekeeping. One you don't mind and one that you do.
You are arbitrarily insisting that the definition of the word is different than what everyone I've ever experienced using the word besides you defines it as just so you can tell me I am wrong.

And your argument is unreasonable besides that because the definition you are trying to set for the word means that a game not being 100% free is gatekeeping, and so is it not being printed in every language on earth, and so is having to actually go get the game whether online or in person - that's a functionally useless definition.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You are arbitrarily insisting that the definition of the word is different than what everyone I've ever experienced using the word besides you defines it as just so you can tell me I am wrong.
Every time I've seen it used, here and elsewhere, people used it to mean, "Setting up a gate to keep certain people out." Setting up a gate to specifically keep the poor and middle classes out qualifies.
 

Eubani

Adventurer
I don't think there needs to be a in world change just a change in explanation in the real world. Instead of saying race XYZ is evil and leaving it at that. The designers need to delve in to the social, environmental, magical. religious forces acting upon the individuals that leads to the behaviour that other races usually see of that race and maybe give a view to members of that race not faced with those pressures.
 

Hussar

Legend
I think largely goblins get a pass because the goblin description doesn't really parallel real world descriptions. The description of goblins in the 5e Monster Manual is:

5e Monster Manual Page 165 said:
Goblins are small, black-hearted, selfish humanoids that lair in caves, abandoned mines, despoiled dungeons and other dismal settings. Individually weak, goblins gather in large, sometimes overwhelming - numbers. They crave power and regularly abuse whatever authority they obtain.

There's nothing really offensive there is there? There's no parallels to be drawn, at all. It's not like half goblins make better goblins. There's no crossbreeding issues. There's no talk about intelligence or whatnot. They're evil, but, ok, being evil was never the issue.

The duegar example, OTOH, I can see where it's coming from. Not sure it needs to be worked on, but, I can certainly see where the parallels lie. It does look a LOT like victim blaming. Note, the Monster Manual description contains nothing of this. I'm assuming this comes from Volo's?
 

I think as soon as you allow a certain evil monster to be played as a race, you'll run into issues incorporating that monster into the setting, and having him work together with the other races. The only solution then is to give them nuance and make them not pure evil. Aside from the problematic language, it just makes sense gameplay wise to expand on their representation. I'm in favor of it, although I should note that I never use orcs and elves in my campaigns if I can help it.
 


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