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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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Oh man. This discussion is taking far too much of my time :) I try guys - I really try to see your points. However, I keep coming back to my initial point of view, which I've presented a few times earlier in this thread. I've read and understood your opinions, but I respectfully disagree. I hope you will do the same.
Preserving the status quo for the sake of one's own comfort might be a good approach for something like, I dunno, choosing a restaurant for dinner. But when the status quo is actively harming people, "agree to disagree" doesn't cut it.
 

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Nickolaidas

Explorer
Something like this might seem innocent. However, words like "savage" and "tribes" have been used, at least in the US, to dehumanize people of color. Similarly, to say that an entire "race" has a -2 to Intelligence is just in poor taste, and has shades of eugenics and white supremacy.
I don't understand. Is this a thing with orcs only? Or will all monstrous humanoids will now not form tribes?

I'm sorry, maybe it's the fact that I'm not an American, or an English native speaker, but I never thought of black people when I read 'savage' and 'tribes'. The D&D is supposedly on a medieval fantasy setting where many creatures are not civilized or intelligent enough to form complex and advanced societies.

Does this mean now that there won't be humanoid races who form tribes? Will goblins only have villages and cities? Will Mind Flayers stop enslaving orcs so that people won't think that it is an indirect correlation with black people being slaves centuries ago?

I'm not being sarcastic, I'm honestly wondering.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
Presumably not Many-Arrows? Many-Arrows

If they retcon'd that, whilst saying "We'll do better with orcs!", then they need a good damn spanking. And Many Arrows is a formalization of something that was, IIRC, happening earlier, where there were friendly/non-evil orcs in that area (they just didn't have a formalized kingdom), I think as far back as, what later 2E?

I think the only excuse if there's a "restore the rightful orc king" plot, but even that is super-corny, and literally has done before, because that was the plot of the novels that established Many-Arrows.

From the SCAG (or SKT?) the legitimate son of Obould still rules the kingdom. That's why I find it strange that the Many-Arrows tribes are mentioned as ''waiting for a Warlord to unite them''. Some poster on the release threads have pointed that the campaign might be placed before the current timeline, so the Kingdom does not exist yet.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Absolutely Yes. But it is incidental.
Incidental harm is still harm. If you incidentally step where someone else’s foot happens to be, the incidental nature of the misstep doesn’t erase any injury that may occur as a result.

And to remove it is to admit one fault you've never have.
I’m not sure I’m parsing this correctly. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds like your priority is to avoid admitting culpability over ceasing the (incidentally) harmful behavior.
 


Incidental harm is still harm. If you incidentally step where someone else’s foot happens to be, the incidental nature of the misstep doesn’t erase any injury that may occur as a result.


I’m not sure I’m parsing this correctly. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds like your priority is to avoid admitting culpability over ceasing the (incidentally) harmful behavior.
you say harm when the subject was overlap between description. Maybe incidental is not the correct word, as I say I'm not english native speaking. I use incidental as something that happens for pure coincidence, is not wanted and not intentional. People who gets harmed but this purely incidental overlap have my comprehension but I'm no way responsible of what I do not want to say. The problem of be harmed stands in the fact that they react to my words giving them meanings that are not implicit in the words itself. Hope to be clear now. Excuse me for the errors.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Absolutely Yes. But it is incidental. And to remove it is to admit one fault you've never have.
As a friend of mine says way too damn much, 'ere's da ting. Removing it makes the game less unwelcoming for a lot of Black players particularly, but also Native and Latin American players. Because they don't want to look at the playable options in the game, see a category entitled "race" or any synonym of that term, and find a playable people who are described in the same way that white supremacists have long described their own people. That is a perfectly reasonable thing. It is fundementally reasonable to see that and say, "Nope. I'd rather look into indie games, or just not get into this hobby where the biggest name in the hobby puts this in their game."

Another important aspect is, to quote a friend in reference to the orc description in Volo's, "If they had Black people on their team for this book, this wouldn't be in the book. There would be playable orcs with orcish cultures that take into account their history and their traits, without using almost exactly the language from white supremacist books about Black people."

And there are plenty of incredible Black creatives in the TTRPG community, and even specifically in the DND community. But the DnD team is still mostly white guys. There is no rational "merit" based argument for that.

And the Volo's orc description is a perfect example of why diverse hiring is vital to a creative endeavor like DnD. None of the creativity of the orc writeup would be lost. Just the language that seems drawn directly from the sorts of books a decent person would only ever study in order to understand the enemy of decency and their rhetoric and tactics. I've an old book at home titled "On Superior Types of Men", from around the 1920's, that is some deeply proto-Nazi garbage. It has similar language to some of the ways that DnD has talked about monstrous races before. Gygax quoted genocidal US military officers from Custer's battles against the Native Americans, in reference to Orcs. (nits make ticks <vomit emoji>) Language that was literally used to justify murdering children.

Now, maybe from the high remove of not being Indigenous or Black, these things can seem somehow "logically" not a problem, because of some misunderstanding about the relevance of intention to the issue of effect, but a fuller, logical and emotional understanding of these objects of our hobby, it should be easy to see why the game is better off without "nits make ticks" and will be better off without "even the most domesticated orc".
 

Sadras

Legend
1) That's the problem: they are, for the moment, Humanoids, not Monstrosities. ...(snip)...

2) They are uneducated, primitive, aggressive, overly fecund, fear progress, overly religious, gullible, strong but less genetically less intelligent than other races, ...(snip)... and unable to produce or create themself etc

...(snip)... and those attributes are what makes it ok to slay them.

And they are the same attribute used to describe minorities all over the world in the past.

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.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Like, I'm a white Hispanic male, who sometimes loses his temper, and is always a little more passionate than a lot of the uptight Lutherans I grew up around are comfortable with. Now, the biggest reasons for this are the influence of my Arkansa Ozark born mostly Irish ancestry mom, not my Hispanic dad who is very chill and very reluctant to loudly emote in a negative way, combined with a particularly hyperfocus presenting ADHD.

However, once anyone who has ever commented on my tempter or my passion for topics that they aren't passionate about learns that I'm White Hispanic, they attribute my (to be clear, pretty mild, non-violent, usually protective) temper and general passion to my Spanish/Mexican heritage.

And that isn't rare. Yes, some European ancestries other than Spanish have some degree of the same tropes about passion and temper, but nearly all of them are ancestries that had waves of immigration into the US well after US culture was established, and were resisted as foreign for at least the first generation, and were essentially not considered white until they'd been here for a good while. (whiteness is always conditional)

The point of all that is, again, that reading that my potential orc or half-orc character only has control of their temper because of their human (the "default" race) ancestry, or because of the influence of human or strongly human-allied society, hits a bit close to home.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
That doesn't make it good. That doesn't change literally anything about the discussion. Every single person having this discussion is completely aware of this information.
 

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