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D&D General WotC’s Official Announcement About Diversity, Races, and D&D

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Following up on recent discussions on social media, WotC has made an official announcement about diversity and the treatment of ‘race’ in D&D. Notably, the word ‘race’ is not used; in its place are the words ‘people’ and 'folk'.

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 PRESS RELEASE


Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is strength, for only a diverse group of adventurers can overcome the many challenges a D&D story presents. In that spirit, making D&D as welcoming and inclusive as possible has moved to the forefront of our priorities over the last six years. We’d like to share with you what we’ve been doing, and what we plan to do in the future to address legacy D&D content that does not reflect who we are today. We recognize that doing this isn’t about getting to a place where we can rest on our laurels but continuing to head in the right direction. We feel that being transparent about it is the best way to let our community help us to continue to calibrate our efforts.

One of the explicit design goals of 5th edition D&D is to depict humanity in all its beautiful diversity by depicting characters who represent an array of ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and beliefs. We want everyone to feel at home around the game table and to see positive reflections of themselves within our products. “Human” in D&D means everyone, not just fantasy versions of northern Europeans, and the D&D community is now more diverse than it’s ever been.

Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.

Here’s what we’re doing to improve:
  • We present orcs and drow in a new light in two of our most recent books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. In those books, orcs and drow are just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples. We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.
  • When every D&D book is reprinted, we have an opportunity to correct errors that we or the broader D&D community discovered in that book. Each year, we use those opportunities to fix a variety of things, including errors in judgment. In recent reprintings of Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd, for example, we changed text that was racially insensitive. Those reprints have already been printed and will be available in the months ahead. We will continue this process, reviewing each book as it comes up for a reprint and fixing such errors where they are present.
  • Later this year, we will release a product (not yet announced) that offers a way for a player to customize their character’s origin, including the option to change the ability score increases that come from being an elf, a dwarf, or one of D&D's many other playable folk. This option emphasizes that each person in the game is an individual with capabilities all their own.
  • Curse of Strahd included a people known as the Vistani and featured the Vistani heroine Ezmerelda. Regrettably, their depiction echoes some stereotypes associated with the Romani people in the real world. To rectify that, we’ve not only made changes to Curse of Strahd, but in two upcoming books, we will also show—working with a Romani consultant—the Vistani in a way that doesn’t rely on reductive tropes.
  • We've received valuable insights from sensitivity readers on two of our recent books. We are incorporating sensitivity readers into our creative process, and we will continue to reach out to experts in various fields to help us identify our blind spots.
  • We're proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists. We’ve brought in contributors who reflect the beautiful diversity of the D&D community to work on books coming out in 2021. We're going to invest even more in this approach and add a broad range of new voices to join the chorus of D&D storytelling.
And we will continue to listen to you all. We created 5th edition in conversation with the D&D community. It's a conversation that continues to this day. That's at the heart of our work—listening to the community, learning what brings you joy, and doing everything we can to provide it in every one of our books.

This part of our work will never end. We know that every day someone finds the courage to voice their truth, and we’re here to listen. We are eternally grateful for the ongoing dialog with the D&D community, and we look forward to continuing to improve D&D for generations to come.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
but this constant drone that people are being fataly hurt by this fantasy based game because of racists tendencies in the lore of some creatures is a leap too far for me, sorry.

Wait...what? Constant drone...?

Could you direct me toward even a single reference where somebody claimed that anybody was "fataly (sic) hurt" by this?
 

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G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Btw. @Elfcrusher : What do you mean by "that crowd"? Sounds to me like an insult.

(edited for...um...maturity)

"That crowd" meaning the group of people suddenly showing up here making arguments similar to yours. If you are insulted by your association with that group, you might want to find a new group or something.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
See? It's not just WotC?

CHICAGO—In response to nationwide protests regarding police brutality and racial discrimination, food conglomerate Quaker Oats announced Friday that after 130 years, it would replace its historically racist Aunt Jemima mascot with a black female lawyer who enjoys pancakes from time to time. “The time has come to replace Jemima, a problematic and stereotypical character that originated in minstrel shows, with Sheila, the public defender of cultivated tastes who eats pancakes on occasion, in addition to a variety of other foods,” said Quaker spokesperson Aaron Parshley, who explained that the former Aunt Jemima brand of syrups and pancake mixes would now bear a logo depicting an African American woman who wears a suit, carries a briefcase, and isn’t an aunt per se, though she is godmother to the child of a dear friend she met as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. “Our new mascot is based on several real-life black women who are lawyers and eat pancakes some mornings when they aren’t too busy litigating on behalf of the disadvantaged. While Sheila does enjoy our extended line of breakfast foods, that is only one small facet of her rich and complex identity as a human being: Sheila also speaks fluent Italian, likes U2, is bisexual, and enjoys cross-country skiing. Let us make it clear that Sheila never serves the pancakes herself, but now and then goes to a diner near the courthouse where waitresses and waiters of a variety of races serve them to her.” At press time, Mars Inc. announced it would follow suit by replacing the mascot of its Uncle Ben’s brand with a black engineering graduate student.

(Yes...it's the Onion. But, seriously, it's hard to tell these days.)
 


Anathema

Villager
(edited for...um...maturity)

"That crowd" meaning the group of people suddenly showing up here making arguments similar to yours. If you are insulted by your association with that group, you might want to find a new group or something.

For someone who pretends to be holding up the flag of inclusion, you are awfully excluding to new people to this community. Maybe it is not me who should revise his point of view :)

I "suddenly showed up" here, because something happened that I felt the need to comment within a larger group of fellow roleplayers. I read 40 pages of comments and I don't think that I deserve being excluded from a healthy discussion, just because my point of view does not fit the Zeitgeist of being easily offended by everything that CAN be interpreted as social injustice. It is kinda embarrassing that having a different view on things makes me part of a "group" of "certain people" who are connoted and generalized as "bad", "negative" or worse.

I am not oblivious to the arguments that are raised in favor of changing certain things, and in part I really find it necessary. But I find it highly questionable to give in to searching for possible stereotypes within races of fantastical creatures. I heard no one rooting to change the calishite empire, a clear reference to arabic countries. Look what the Forgotten Realms Wiki (forgottenrealms.fandoms.com) has to say about Calimshan:

In addition to the desire for the status and wealth on the surface, a strong drive for strength in the underworld of trade was also present. A tradition of lying, cheating, backstabbing, blackmail, and respect for the host made the dealings of this underworld a local fair. Women were not seen as equals except in the underworld trade.

Anyone offended? And those are HUMAN BEINGS within the fantasy realm. There are people depicted in the Forgotten Realms, human people, that are clearly based on Arab people and they come from a "tradition of lying, cheating, backstabbing, blackmail" and no one is even mentioning this. But somehow monstrous humanoids like orcs with tusks, superhuman strength and green to grey skin are seen as problematic because of their evil nature that came from their creation by an evil deity.
 


Oof, I feel like this conversation has fallen off into name calling and sniping rather than constructive discussion.

If anyone wants to talk further about this, or has questions, feel free to message me!

Otherwise, I'm out! Thanks for the discussion everyone! I appreciated hearing from folks on all sides, and I hope everyone was given some new ideas and concepts to mull over.
 

TheCultMachine

Explorer
Can’t wait to read the monster stat blocks for the new butterfly collecting orc king and the Drow paperboy. Why can’t we have clearly evil monsters who do clearly evil things? Adventuring parties are typically super diverse heroes who run through dungeons looking for evil dragons to slay.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
For someone who pretends to be holding up the flag of inclusion, you are awfully excluding to new people to this community. Maybe it is not me who should revise his point of view :)

I "suddenly showed up" here, because something happened that I felt the need to comment within a larger group of fellow roleplayers. I read 40 pages of comments and I don't think that I deserve being excluded from a healthy discussion, just because my point of view does not fit the Zeitgeist of being easily offended by everything that CAN be interpreted as social injustice. It is kinda embarrassing that having a different view on things makes me part of a "group" of "certain people" who are connoted and generalized as "bad", "negative" or worse.

Oh, a smiley face! How friendly!

Do you get actual training in how to present these fair-seeming arguments, or is it just something you've picked up somewhere?

But, anyway...um, no. Race, gender, dis/ability, religion, identity, nationality, age, alignment...discrimination based on any of those is wrong.

Opinions you hold and espouse, however, are entirely your choice. And, really, that's what this whole thread is about. Do the orcs raid and pillage because that's who orcs are, or because they choose to? Turns out it's their choice. Happily, because some of them do make that choice, we still get to kill them and take their loot.

In the real world (perhaps unfortunately) we are limited in the tools we can use with those who voluntarily hold...and especially evangelize...odious views. But, no, the protections afforded race do not apply.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
idk how can a sapient species have society and yet somehow can't manage to form things like cities?

Maybe it isn't that they "can't manage" it? Maybe they don't want to manage it.

Consider - when playing D&D, you recognize that gathering your party in a tight clump means you are very vulnerable to a fireball or lightning bolt. In a world with, say, dragons, there may be a cultural equivalent - if your settlement gets too large, monsters find it to be a tasty morsel, and come and kill you! Perhaps the society is better served by being more spread out.

Or, maybe their social structures are different. Or maybe the plants in the area are not suitable for agricultural development, so that you can't build the excess food supply necessary to support a city. Or maybe their territory is poor in workable metals, so they can't get past stone age technology. Or, or, or...

We did cities. Doesn't mean everyone has to. And our first cities were perhaps 5000 years ago, but, depending how you want to count, our species is hundreds of thousands of years old. So, we've had cities for perhaps 2.5% of our existence. If someone stopped by a mere hair earlier on the geologic timescale, you'd not see a metal tool anywhere on the planet. So, maybe your game is a hair earlier on their timescale.

And really, cities are not the end-all, be-all of what it means to be a sentient species. Neither are any other particular technologies. In fact, the very idea that there's a linear "advancement" is about as inaccurate as saying that humans are "more evolved" than gorillas.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
If I could challenge you on this, what about the current state of D&D do you think is spurring WotC to take action and make changes?

Honestly? Nothing.
This stuff isn't anything WotC (& TSR before them) hasn't heard about literally for decades. They could've changed it at any time. Ideally when an edition flips.... You know, new edition. New approach.
They didn't.
The people in charge 5e-wise? They are the same people in charge today as yesterday when Volos, CoS, & Abyss were released.
They could've changed it then. What better times than when the Drow, Vistani & PC playable orcs make their big 5e debuts? New edition, New approach.
They didn't.
They took our $$ & crowed about how amazing well D&D was doing saleswise.

Perhaps it was because the police stood on Floyd's neck & murdered him live on our Twitter feeds?
As terrible that is? How's it any different than whats been going on the year before that? Two years ago? Three? Etc.
After any one of these tragedies/murders Wizards could have said "We're changing our approach concerning ______".
They didn't.
They took our $$, crowed about how well D&D was doing & patted themselves on the back.

If all was going according to plan this sequence would be repeating in regards to the Theros book.

So what changed?
Well, now out in the real world theres currently world wide mass protests, riots, looting, burning, further murders of both PoC & police, and various companies coming under fire (some rightly, some wrongly) concerning racism.
The last part, about companies, is the important factor here.
This isn't about any of us. Its not about how orcs/Drow/Vistani are presented (they've proven they're OK with that. Or at least werent worried about it). June ?? 2020 was not the day the scales fell off thier eyes & they had an epiphany. Nope, this is all $. Its about WotC attempting not be attacked (figuratively or literally) - losing $.
And I understand. Right now virtually every company is diving for a foxhole. So NOW you're seeing them say something concerning orcs/driw/Vistani.... because its become important to their bottom line.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Honestly? Nothing.
This stuff isn't anything WotC (& TSR before them) hasn't heard about literally for decades. They could've changed it at any time. Ideally when an edition flips.... You know, new edition. New approach.
They didn't.
The people in charge 5e-wise? They are the same people in charge today as yesterday when Volos, CoS, & Abyss were released.
They could've changed it then. What better times than when the Drow, Vistani & PC playable orcs make their big 5e debuts? New edition, New approach.
They didn't.
They took our $$ & crowed about how amazing well D&D was doing saleswise.

Perhaps it was because the police stood on Floyd's neck & murdered him live on our Twitter feeds?
As terrible that is? How's it any different than whats been going on the year before that? Two years ago? Three? Etc.
After any one of these tragedies/murders Wizards could have said "We're changing our approach concerning ______".
They didn't.
They took our $$, crowed about how well D&D was doing & patted themselves on the back.

If all was going according to plan this sequence would be repeating in regards to the Theros book.

So what changed?
Well, now out in the real world theres currently world wide mass protests, riots, looting, burning, further murders of both PoC & police, and various companies coming under fire (some rightly, some wrongly) concerning racism.
The last part, about companies, is the important factor here.
This isn't about any of us. Its not about how orcs/Drow/Vistani are presented (they've proven they're OK with that. Or at least werent worried about it). June ?? 2020 was not the day the scales fell off thier eyes & they had an epiphany. Nope, this is all $. Its about WotC attempting not be attacked (figuratively or literally) - losing $.
And I understand. Right now virtually every company is diving for a foxhole. So NOW you're seeing them say something concerning orcs/driw/Vistani.... because its become important to their bottom line.

It has been noted before, but many of the things they announced had been in the works for quite some time (well before the current troubles began)
 

Zardnaar

Legend
See? It's not just WotC?



(Yes...it's the Onion. But, seriously, it's hard to tell these days.)

It's not the imagery that's the problem.

You look at that or Uncle Ben's rice and think what's the big deal?

It's the name Aunty and Uncle were used as they didn't want to use the Mr/Mrs titles back in the South.
 


Warpiglet

Adventurer
I think you hit the nail on the head.

Flip this: why did people start cities? Why do we build?

We do it for survival. I would imagine lizard folk however do just fine finding food in the swamp. They can hold their breath and dive. Their endurance and semi aquatic nature means that they don’t need giant fields of wheat and the means to distribute crops.

Their natural armor and bite means many tools are complementary but not necessary.

Generation after generation they’re so successful in small groups, why change?

They are ahead of the city builders...in their habitat.

Maybe it isn't that they "can't manage" it? Maybe they don't want to manage it.

Consider - when playing D&D, you recognize that gathering your party in a tight clump means you are very vulnerable to a fireball or lightning bolt. In a world with, say, dragons, there may be a cultural equivalent - if your settlement gets too large, monsters find it to be a tasty morsel, and come and kill you! Perhaps the society is better served by being more spread out.

Or, maybe their social structures are different. Or maybe the plants in the area are not suitable for agricultural development, so that you can't build the excess food supply necessary to support a city. Or maybe their territory is poor in workable metals, so they can't get past stone age technology. Or, or, or...

We did cities. Doesn't mean everyone has to. And our first cities were perhaps 5000 years ago, but, depending how you want to count, our species is hundreds of thousands of years old. So, we've had cities for perhaps 2.5% of our existence. If someone stopped by a mere hair earlier on the geologic timescale, you'd not see a metal tool anywhere on the planet. So, maybe your game is a hair earlier on their timescale.

And really, cities are not the end-all, be-all of what it means to be a sentient species. Neither are any other particular technologies. In fact, the very idea that there's a linear "advancement" is about as inaccurate as saying that humans are "more evolved" than gorillas.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I think you hit the nail on the head.

Flip this: why did people start cities? Why do we build?

We do it for survival. I would imagine lizard folk however do just fine finding food in the swamp. They can hold their breath and dive. Their endurance and semi aquatic nature means that they don’t need giant fields of wheat and the means to distribute crops.

Their natural armor and bite means many tools are complementary but not necessary.

Generation after generation they’re so successful in small groups, why change?

They are ahead of the city builders...in their habitat.

Beats me why you can't imagine lizard men in cities.

The world of Titan from the old fighting fantasy books has the Lizardmen as a major empire.

Dark Elves were demon worshippers but not matriarchal BDSM lolthites.
 

Warpiglet

Adventurer
Certainly. But some have asked why they don’t. I think that is easy to imagine too.


Beats me why you can't imagine lizard men in cities.

The world of Titan from the old fighting fantasy books has the Lizardmen as a major empire.

Dark Elves were demon worshippers but not matriarchal BDSM lolthites.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Places, mostly.

Ya know, like halflings, or gnomes, or dwarves, or anyone else. Maybe in FR good orcs spread out amongst the various other peoples, and only keep small enclaves in hard to reach places for their own. Maybe there are more types of tribes in the north than we've seen before.

"There are good orcs, just off camera" doesn't sound like any meaningful change if orcs are still going to be viewed as a primarily cannon fodder henchmen.

Again, I'm trying to figure out how many "evil" orcs constitute a problem. If you stop using racist language but continue to use orcs to be grunt stock, has anything really changed? Is it enough to say "there are good orcs too, you just never meet them." ? What has to be done to settings like FR or GH to make them compatible with this changing attitude?

If we agree that the language and concept of "always evil" humanoids is bad and racist, what should actually be done to the game settings that already exist about to live up to that vision?
 

Staffan

Adventurer
And yet they are the same attributes used to describe all others all over the world all throughout history.
When the barbarians, heathens were attacking the Greeks, Romans or Byzantine Empire the same were said about them.

It is a medieval / fantasy trope that has resonated throughout humanity's timeline.
And one we could do without. I mean, a standard thing back in the day was the high-level character being granted title to some land on the edge of "civilization" and then being expected to recruit some troops, build a keep, and clear out the monsters in the area. That's the background to things like the Keep on the Borderlands. The parallels to American "Manifest Destiny" are... not comfortable.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
"There are good orcs, just off camera" doesn't sound like any meaningful change if orcs are still going to be viewed as a primarily cannon fodder henchmen.
I'm not beholden to things I didn't say.

What I did say was that you can just add good and neutral orcs to FR without changing any established borders. That has nothing to do with them being "off camera". It certainly doesn't mean orcs are still primarily cannon fodder.
 

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