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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Guest 6948803

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I don't have any problem with that Elfcrusher.
In fact, I am far more concerned with people shooting at each other over barricades in those threads than Wizards action.
But I have full right to respectfully convey my opinion.
I still run great D&D game while trying to not hurt my players feelings.
I don't have slightest doubt that you do the same.
Maybe my take on things is a little different because I was raised in heavily policed, oppressive socialist state with exactly zero POC. So, I am more aware of auto-censoring mechanisms and less aware of racial divide.
Funny thing, I participate in my local-language discussion on the topic and I am catching flak there for even admitting that presentation of non-existing fantasy race can be problematic to someone.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
I do think there's something to that. There are some text references (sorry, not going to look them up right now) to that effect. Tolkien associates machinery and explosives and pollution with evil.

The first I heard of that was a documentary years ago. But I found one site that seems to support that:
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
What I really loved about 5th edition is that it made every single monster and PC race feel unique, due to abilities and modifiers. I don't want that be taken away.

I UNDERSTAND that it makes little sense to have a dwarf who was raised in a library to have a +2 CON by default and not a +2 in INT. In role-playing terms, I applaud the change they are about to bring.

In GAME terms however, I dread it. I loved the fact that dwarves were a stereotype, as well as orcs, goblins, elves, drow, dragons, etc. Because it made them unique. I hope that WotC will make changes in role-playing terms, and not game terms.
Here’s the thing. Dwarves don’t have to be a stereotype to be unique. They can be complex and nuanced with deep, rich culture and lore and a wide range of physical traits and interests and talents and flaws... and still be unique. There is room for all the beautiful richness and complexity of a real people, without making them the same as every other people, all of whom could have their own deep, nuanced, multifaceted culture. And wouldn’t that sort of uniqueness be so much more interesting than having peoples be unique only for being different one-dimensional stereotypes?

Here's a good solution, I see.

Ability Score modifiers should be decided by your Class, not your Race/Ancestry. If you pick a Wizard, you should have +2 INT bonus, and choose between say, CHA or WIS for a secondary bonus.

Race / Ancestry should matter on passive abilities like Darkvision or Breath/Claw Attacks.
I do think that’s a good way to handle things mechanically.
 

So basically, you won't be picking a dwarf because he's resistant to poison and has a CON/STR bonus, but you'll pick a dwarf because you want your character to look like a dwarf.

But why stop there? Why should dwarves be short and be subjected to cruel jokes and insults? Any dwarf should be as tall or short as I'd like! And why can Dragonborn breathe fire and the Drow cannot? That's not very inclusive, is it? Every character should be able to breathe fire!

And the Drow will be a morally complex species? That's awesome, will we be seeing lawful good Balors as well? If Drow are as morally diverse and complex as regular elves are, what is the purpose of choosing a Drow character over a regular elf character? Before, a character picking a Drow knew that he was picking a race which would create a lot of tensions wherever he went and he would have to work for the love of the townsfolk he saved (if he even cared). Now, will players pick a drow simply because 'they look cool'?

I get their (WotC) intention, I really do. But there's a difference between being ok to be a dwarf, a drow, an orc or whatever, and every race not have their own ability score modifiers. I fear that their need to be inclusive will generalize virtually every race and races will devolve simply to 'what do you want your character to look like'.

I hope I'm wrong and doomsaying, but until I see the actual changes in those books, I'm worried.

But I'd be lying if I didn't consider awesome the idea to have Mind Flayers openly walk in a city, being eccentric knowledge collectors with a hidden agenda, or excellent interrogators.
This entire post is a bad-faith argument, slippery slope fallacy, and worst yet, complete nonsensical fear-mongering. What is wrong with you people? Why does it make you all so mad that these things change, especially when they are optional? Why in the world does the older generation of this hobby have such a need to fight for naughty word that doesn't even deal with them at all? Like seriously. This thread is filled with people who say "I don't see a problem with it so its FINE!" No one CARES if you don't see a problem with it, because if you don't see a problem with it you can just DO WHAT YOU WANT ANYWAY. No one is stopping you!

And bro, this post I'm replying too here? If you really are sincere with this post, then you are a strong case for why logic needs to be taught in Elementary through High School because you just posted a whole bunch of stupid what ifs that literally rely on utter nonsense to happen. Get a freaking grip.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
IIRC, orcs weren't meant to represent any minority ethnic group. There were to represent Europeans and Tolkien's distaste for the industrial revolution and what it had created (pollution, soot, iron and steel, etc). However, by their appearance, many made the racial correlation. Sort of how the swastika wasn't originally a symbol of hate, but...well...here we are and how we react to it when we see it.
On the one hand, yes, Tolkien’s intent was generally more class commentary than racial commentary. On the other hand, he was a product of the culture he lived in, with views and biases influenced by his environment. Whether he intended orcs to be a racist caricature of Asian people or not, they still ended up that way.
 

So first off, keep in mind that nobody in this thread is actually in charge of how WotC will move forward with the depictions of both playable and monstrous "races" in D&D, and there's no one consensus. So you will be seeing a lot of inconsistencies on how people think this problem could be solved.

But a good guiding question for thinking about this issue is does this reinforce negative stereotypes that harm real people?

Now, onto your question. Why should -2 Intelligence be removed from orcs?

In the Monster Manual, orcs are described like this:



Out of context of the real world, you could argue that a -2 Intelligence penalty would be perfectly appropriate for the people described here.

However, D&D exists within the context of the real world the players exist in.

In the real world, words like "savage" and "tribes" have been used to denigrate and dehumanize people of color. Assumptions of intelligence based on race have actively harmed students of color. Assumptions of the moral standing of people based on race have created a system of justice that treats people of color unfairly.

When we see the same words used to reinforce harmful stereotypes used in our D&D game, it's time to step back and ask ourselves if it's really necessary to do so. Do we have to paint an entire people, even if they are monstrous, with the same broad brush strokes that have been used to dehumanize real humans?

WotC no longer thinks it's a necessary part of the game.

Does that make sense?
Sorry, for me no. In a fictional world I can imagine a creature genetically less intelligent. In a real world there are many species less brain developed than humans. Moreover is a scientific result that QI distribution depends largely on scholarization, so to think that an Orc is generally less intelligent not for genetics, but for his social organization is not so unrealistic and less offensive. The step that make your position acceptable is the same step that I refuse: identification between PoC and Orcs. And I refuse it because I'm no racist at all.
 

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Guest 6801328

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In fact, I am far more concerned with people shooting at each other over barricades in those threads than Wizards action.

Me, too. Fortunately I have mental bandwidth to be concerned about both.

I still run great D&D game while trying to not hurt my players feelings.

That's good. But I hope you don't think this is all about potentially hurt feelings among players.
 



BookTenTiger

He / Him
Sorry, for me no. In a fictional world I can imagine a creature genetically less intelligent. In a real world there are many species less brain developed than humans. Moreover is a scientific result that QI distribution depends largely on scholarization, so to think that an Orc is generally less intelligent not for genetics, but for his social organization is not so unrealistic and less offensive. The step that make your position acceptable is the same step that I refuse: identification between PoC and Orcs. And I refuse it because I'm no racist at all.

Could you concede, though, that even if YOU don't equate PoC and Orcs (as you shouldn't), the language that has been used in D&D is borrowed from the language used to dehumanize people of color?
 

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