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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

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Honest question: Are you ok with the Mind Flayers being depicted as a species seeking to dominate everyone in the multiverse?

If yes, why do you have an issue with all orcs being depicted as tribal raiders?
Yes, because of multiple reasons.
  1. Mind Flayers bear no similarities to real life peoples, cultures, or races. The same cannot be truthfully said about orcs.
  2. They are aliens and think differently than normal people. It is okay with them being evil. They literally cannot exist as a species without killing people through ceremorphosis and brain eating.
  3. Orcs are humanoids and are playable races.
 

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MGibster

Legend
okay if we take a very literal interpretation of the treachery of images then the Atlantic slave trade as we understand it wasn't real. literally no living person today was alive during the slave trade, all we have to go by is historical accounts and stories. if I read a fictionalized story about the slave trade, does that not mean events in the book aren't racist? keep in mind my scenario is deliberately based on a real world event.

Taking it to a very literal interpretation isn't a road I'm interested in traveling. I'm not asking you to agree but trying to help you understand why someone might have a different viewpoint from your own. You expressed a fundamental lack of understanding about why people don't think the racism of your scenario is actually racism. It's the same reason people don't think the violence in D&D is actually violence. Sure, within the context of the game your PC totally chopped the head off that evil despot with his vorpal sword. But it wasn't real.
 





AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
A tree? What the? For goodness sake, you're not one of those primary preception believers are you?

And why shouldn;t orcs have alien minds? They are, if anything, even less related to humans than the mind-flayers are
Why shouldn't orcs have alien minds? Well, because they've never been depicted that way. That's like asking, "Why are humans not jellyfish?" in the context of comparing the structural societies of sea life and humans.
It has no relevance to the situation. Orcs don't have alien minds, because they don't. They have been shown to be reasonable. They can be good and smart.
 

Nickolaidas

Explorer
Why shouldn’t they? Aren’t complex villains generally considered more interesting than one-dimensional ones?
Not if there are not one-dimensional villains to highlight them.

I think the debate began when WotC (and TSR) made orcs and goblins playable. It made the players relate to them and think it cruel and unjust to kill those races on sight (since their orc/goblin character is a tiny representation of that race), unlike the Mind Flayers and the Gnolls.

It made the players step on to that creature's shoes and think 'I am a goblin. I am capable of good, ergo other goblins are capable of good. So why should ALL goblins be put to the sword'?

That stems from my personal dislike of playing evil characters - I simply take no pleasure in play-acting things that I find extremely objectionable IRL. This doesn't mean that I take issue with killing in D&D, but that--for me--it has to be warranted, as part of some greater goal that my character feels is justified.

When the narrative tells me that the tribe of orcs who live a few miles across wants to invade the kingdom my family and friends live, and want to take them as slaves or worse, and burn my hometown, and will not stop unless I drive them off or kill them ... I think the game did its best to warrant orc genocide without making you feel as a piece of naughty word.

Because, in the end, that's what this is all about - I think. If they present all orcs and mostly evil humanoids as redeemable or morally complex as humans, it creates a lot of narrative problems. The goblins you killed had children and families - therefore killing them all is wrong and unjust. This immediately makes storytelling more complex - and as a result - more difficult.

And before you know it, killing the lizardfolk tribesmen who protect the Green Dragon Garaloth is wrong, because they're being bullied into its service. So how will four humanoids convince fifty lizardfolk tribesmen that obeying the big bad skyscraper-sized winged lizard is wrong, that they mean them no harm, and they're hear to overthrow it and are strong enough to defeat it? And why should the lizardfolk believe them when they witnessed said lizard burn to death their thirty best warriors? Or avoid killing the Drow/Duergar thralls who protect the Elder Brain because they're just mindless pawns in their game of dominance.

In real life, this would be realistic and would create psychological problems for the 'heroes' who perform genocide for the 'greater good'. They would be psychologically broken and tested, over and over again. Or they would have to come up with very clever ways to avoid bloodshed.

But this isn't real life. It is a tabletop game. It's meant to be stress-free. In order to protect your conscience, the creators attempted to create irredeemably evil creatures in order for the player to not feel guilt as he kills them. Was D&D about making the perfect world where everyone can live in peace and harmony? Or was it a game that made your players feel awesome by killing fearsome monsters?
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Moderate Muslims have no issues with D&D.

Source: Had 4+ Muslim players in my High School group in the early 90s.
Forgive me if this was meant as a joke, but it can be hard to tell in conversations like this. But that’s an anecdote, it’s useless as far as data analysis goes. Also it was the early 90s. A lot has changed since then, for D&D and for the global political situation. I imagine a lot of Muslim people who may have been moderate in the early 90s’ views have changed since then.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So how would you discuss the socio-economic structure of Waterdeep? Can't that be done without dragging real world politics into it?
Sure, but we have to be careful, in this forum, to avoid bringing too much real world discussion about economic models and their impact on a society, and if any participants have really strong views on the matter, it might be best to stick entirely to wieghts and measures and the like, and not talk about socio-economics, as such.

But a discussion about actual real life capitalism is inherently political. Suggesting it isn't is like suggesting that discussing the social impact of armed policing can be non-political. As it relates directly to a discussion about gaming, we can get away with a little politics (as a treat), but we have to be careful not to let the discussion veer off into just discussing policing as a general thing.
 

Nickolaidas

Explorer
AD&D 2e still used the 1e alignment definitions, still went by DM fiat being the Whole of the Law on alignment issues-- and still had the XP penalty for "changing" alignment. Third Edition did away with that nonsense, but over half of the classes in the PHB had alignment restrictions that could either take away your class abilities or prevent you from advancing in the class.

Only two those classes were Cleric and Paladin, which are the only two classes for which I consider alignment requirements justifiable.
That's not what you said. You said, and I quote,

Except that no, I can't, because the D&D rules state that showing honor and compassion to humanoid enemies is objectively morally wrong, and prior to Fourth Edition-- every version of D&D that I care to play-- had mechanical penalties for deviating from the moral standards of your alignment.
And now you give me the XP penalty for 'changing alignment' rule. The XP penalty for changing your alignment has nothing to do with showing compassion to humanoid enemies. If you are a lawful good fighter and you spare the injured goblin who can't fight anymore and the DM gives you a penalty, that's the DM being an naughty word, not the rules enforcing white supremacy. So your point is invalid.

So far as I know, no official D&D product has ever used historical racist language/rhetoric to describe Illithid.
So whiping out evil tribesmen gives you white supremacy vibes, but a race who considers all other creatures inferior and only serve purpose as cattle and slaves doesn't?

Huh.
 

Mercurius

Legend
okay, for reals, I really want to understand why people are okay with racism when it doesn't involve a real group of people. why does fantasy racism get a free pass from so many of you people just because it's a fantasy?

Fantasy doesn't always represent reality in a literal or even allegorical way. It is (or can be) mythic. Or to use Tolkien's term, it involves a secondary world with its own laws and principles.

I'm fairly certain that no one in this thread (or I hope not!) believes that any actual human races or ethnic groups are inherently evil, but that doesn't mean that an evil race can't exist in a fantasy world.

Now whether or not fantasy should equate strictly with reality is debatable. I for one am leery of "shoulds" and, at the least, feel like it is a personal choice. But I see nothing wrong with engaging with fantasy RPGs as pure fantasy, with the caveat that we all have different lines that we won't cross in our activity of make-believe.
 



Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
By moderate do you mean secular?

Alot are secular now meaning they don't care about drinking booze or going to mosque.

They're Palestinians via Jordan she's quite funny as she often used to tell me to stop drinking. They're fairly moderate but observe the rules in regards to what's Haram.
I'm not sure how you would define the difference between moderate and secular Muslims.

They (at least some of them) observed the holidays, went to mosque, did a pilgrimage, and didn't eat Oreos (this is how I learned they had pork fat in them!).

They didn't do X prayers a day or cover their heads in public.

I have a current work friend from Iran. She plays boardgames and would play D&D if the schedule fit. I would describe her as lapsed or non practicing, though.
 


Matt S1

Villager
Anti-inclusive content. Slinging “SJW” and other pejoratives around is against site rules. Please familiarize yourself with those .
Race is actually the proper English word, not ancestry or folks.

Our group stuck with D&D 5e vs the new PF2 because we play to escape reality, not to have social justice warriors screwing with the game system.

So much for ever seeing Darksun for 5e.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Not if there are not one-dimensional villains to highlight them.
Really? I mean, I guess that’s your opinion. I don’t think it’s a commonly held one at all, but ok I guess.

I think the debate began when WotC (and TSR) made orcs and goblins playable. It made the players relate to them and think it cruel and unjust to kill those races on sight (since their orc/goblin character is a tiny representation of that race), unlike the Mind Flayers and the Gnolls.

It made the players step on to that creature's shoes and think 'I am a goblin. I am capable of good, ergo other goblins are capable of good. So why should ALL goblins be put to the sword'?
As well they should. Goes to show that making them playable was a good move.

When the narrative tells me that the tribe of orcs who live a few miles across wants to invade the kingdom my family and friends live, and want to take them as slaves or worse, and burn my hometown, and will not stop unless I drive them off or kill them ... I think the game did its best to warrant orc genocide without making you feel as a piece of naughty word.
Nothing you describe the orc tribe doing here isn’t done by real life people. In fact, historically it was mostly white Europeans doing the invading and enslaving. Does that justify genocide against them? I would certainly not say so. I don’t think the game should go out of its way to make the players not feel bad for contemplating genocide.

Because, in the end, that's what this is all about - I think. If they present all orcs and mostly evil humanoids as redeemable or morally complex as humans, it creates a lot of narrative problems. The goblins you killed had children and families - therefore killing them all is wrong and unjust. This immediately makes storytelling more complex - and as a result - more difficult.

And before you know it, killing the lizardfolk tribesmen who protect the Green Dragon Garaloth is wrong, because they're being bullied into its service. So how will four humanoids convince fifty lizardfolk tribesmen that obeying the big bad skyscraper-sized winged lizard is wrong, that they mean them no harm, and they're hear to overthrow it and are strong enough to defeat it? And why should the lizardfolk believe them when they witnessed said lizard burn to death their thirty best warriors? Or avoid killing the Drow/Duergar thralls who protect the Elder Brain because they're just mindless pawns in their game of dominance.
Good! That sounds like an infinity more interesting game than one where you just kill all the orcs because they’re inherently and irredeemably evil to the last and deserve it.

In real life, this would be realistic and would create psychological problems for the 'heroes' who perform genocide for the 'greater good'. They would be psychologically broken and tested, over and over again. Or they would have to come up with very clever ways to avoid bloodshed.

But this isn't real life. It is a tabletop game. It's meant to be stress-free. In order to protect your conscience, the creators attempted to create irredeemably evil creatures in order for the player to not feel guilt as he kills them. Was D&D about making the perfect world where everyone can live in peace and harmony? Or was it a game that made your players feel awesome by killing fearsome monsters?
So what you’re saying is, you want a game that gives you permission to do a colonialism and not feel bad about it.
 
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Mercurius

Legend
When the narrative tells me that the tribe of orcs who live a few miles across wants to invade the kingdom my family and friends live, and want to take them as slaves or worse, and burn my hometown, and will not stop unless I drive them off or kill them ... I think the game did its best to warrant orc genocide without making you feel as a piece of naughty word.

Because, in the end, that's what this is all about - I think. If they present all orcs and mostly evil humanoids as redeemable or morally complex as humans, it creates a lot of narrative problems. The goblins you killed had children and families - therefore killing them all is wrong and unjust. This immediately makes storytelling more complex - and as a result - more difficult.

And before you know it, killing the lizardfolk tribesmen who protect the Green Dragon Garaloth is wrong, because they're being bullied into its service. So how will four humanoids convince fifty lizardfolk tribesmen that obeying the big bad skyscraper-sized winged lizard is wrong, that they mean them no harm, and they're hear to overthrow it and are strong enough to defeat it? And why should the lizardfolk believe them when they witnessed said lizard burn to death their thirty best warriors? Or avoid killing the Drow/Duergar thralls who protect the Elder Brain because they're just mindless pawns in their game of dominance.

In real life, this would be realistic and would create psychological problems for the 'heroes' who perform genocide for the 'greater good'. They would be psychologically broken and tested, over and over again. Or they would have to come up with very clever ways to avoid bloodshed.

But this isn't real life. It is a tabletop game. It's meant to be stress-free. In order to protect your conscience, the creators attempted to create irredeemably evil creatures in order for the player to not feel guilt as he kills them. Was D&D about making the perfect world where everyone can live in peace and harmony? Or was it a game that made your players feel awesome by killing fearsome monsters?

In the end, though, does it matter how the rules are presented for this sort of thing? It really comes down to the DM and the assumptions of the campaign. If you want traditional orcs, go with that. It is easy to.

Now I personally don't agree with the link between orcs and real world ethnic groups--I think it is tenuous at best. But the reason I don't have an issue with changing orcs is that it doesn't inhibit my ability to run orcs as I want to run them. Now how the changes are made and what they are is a bit more concerning, but all but the most extreme mechanical changes won't inhibit my creative freedom. For instance, if orcs are presented in a revised PHB or Xanathar's 2 as a playable PC race with a wider range of cultural trends, I'm fine with it--especially if it makes those who find the current iteration to be distasteful enough that it tarnishes their gaming experience.
 

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