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D&D 5E WotC On Tasha, Race, Alignment: A Several-Year Plan

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WotC spoke to the site Dicebreaker about D&D race and alignment, and their plans for the future.

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  • On of the motivations of the changes [character customization] in Tasha's Cauldron was to decouple race from class.
  • The 'tightrope' between honouring legacy and freedom of character choice has not been effectively walked.
  • Alignment is turning into a roleplaying tool, and will not be used to describe entire cultures.
  • This work will take several years to fully implement.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Horwath

Hero
Given contemporary arguments, how is "deserve" defined?

Through the lens of modern real-world culture, it could be argued that there's never a reason for a creature to deserve to die. Asmodeus could be one chai latte and one heart-to-heart talk away from being redeemed.

From more of a meta-game view, it also could be argued (and has been in the past) that attaching an XP value to the lives of creatures -for the purposes of measuring advancement- promotes undesirable behavior among players of the game.
in most games we advance by milestone of the story.

So any extra killing/looting that is done outside the main story is for RP reasons or just for extra "stuff".
 

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Argyle King

Legend
Most fiends, most undead, most aberrations (not flumphs or gnome ceremorphs), and most evil elementals deserve death if they're killing people. Someone that is attempting to kill you or innocent people for malicious purposes deserves death, or at least incapacitation.

A mindflayer is just trying to feed their family and support their community. They have tadpoles to look after.
 

Puddles

Explorer
I try and play D&D as vanilla as I can, but the one place I differ is in the lore for my "evil humanoids". I like having monsters like Goblins and Orcs that are inherently evil so players have no qualms over killing them, but to do this I remove the human and biological aspects from them. Goblins and Orcs are genderless and do not rear offspring. Instead Goblins come out of the shadows of the darkest caves in the realms, perhaps where the touch of the Abyss is felt, but no-one knows for sure. Orcs are created in similarly mysterious circumstances. I detach them from being humanoid and move them closer to Elemental creatures or Fiends/Demons/Devils.

That being said, I am happy to see WoTC make moves to address this - even if they are going the other way. It is the middle ground that is problematic in my opinion, i.e. having them being sentient and biological creatures but labelling them all evil.

I imagine what will happen is the lore of D&D will evolve and you'll start to see Goblins and Orcs living in the cities of Waterdeep and Neverwinter etc (if they are not already), and the low level threats will move to Undead/Fiends where it is not morally questionable to kill them.

I also think eventually PC race might become entirely cosmetic, just like gender is. Right now it is negative ability scores that are getting removed - later on I would see things like Speed fall into the same discussion. After all, having a speed of 25ft impacts the effectiveness of melee based classes and pushes you to ranged based classes instead. The impact isn't as great as ability score reductions which is why it is not being talked about right now, but I think it will be talked about eventually.

Me personally, I like negative attributes for the different playable races so I will be a little sad to see them go, but I am in a privileged position where I see them just as fun roleplaying opportunities and game mechanics rather than mirroring real world stereotypes, and if it is hurtful for many I don't mind that being addressed at all.
 

Regarding killing things: a core component of how the game is designed is XP, which is a point value assigned to how much advancement is gained via murdering a creature.

I vaguely remember* the Satanic Panic crowd using that to justify some of their arguments. I find it somewhat strange that we've somehow reached a place where attempts to increase diversity and avoid offense have circled back around to using talking points similar to those employed by folks who demonized D&D players.

*True story: I was unable to buy 2nd Edition because the local Toys'R'Us (which carried the game at the time) would not allow "kids" to buy the game, due to pressure from parent groups who wanted to "protect" children from the evil influences of the game.
I don't have any problems with players killing things & to be honest probably get a bit darker than a lot of other gm's just from things I've been told over the years, but that darkness allows my players to make real tangible change in the world for the better when they aren't breaking it. With that said I've had players in the middle of an assassination attempt targeting them say things like "I'm not going to kill these 'assassins' because this is the middle of sharn, that one is a kid, & I'm sure it will get me in big trouble I don't want to be in" before finding out that the assassins were all regular people with kidnapped families and such held hostage in a campaign where practically overt corruption of sentinel marshals (law enforcement) to sere the rich & powerful was a significant theme throughout the campaign. That kind of depth doesn't work when the story is as deep as the thin layer of ink on the page needed to write "such & such race if Cap E Evil!"
 

Okay, maybe I was a bit vague in what exactly I do not agree with. I was referring to how Crawford sees innate advantages as being like racist narratives. That's where I call bs.
I'm not opposed to giving players more options to customize their characters further, but the reasoning behind it is, in my opinion, like pouring the baby out with the bathwater.
Part of the problem is that, again, some of these situations lead to literally re-using real-world bigotry when discussing fictional-world things. Consider, for example, the way the "fictional" Varisian culture is portrayed in Golarion. It was, pretty much without exception, every harmful stereotype about the Roma peoples. Up to and including deeply concerning stuff like a strong presumption of criminal activity (that the authors poorly retconned, AIUI).

Or, for a more pointed example: real-world genocide has been justified with the idea that there are different, mixable groups of sapient beings, and that only one set of those is acceptable while others are unworthy of life. It is, quite literally, a core tactic of "ethnic cleansing" programs to portray different ethnic groups as though they were a completely different species. So, if literal, actual genocidal rhetoric does this, it's really REALLY not much of a leap to ask, "So...what's different about this thing in D&D? Both of them designate a target group of sapient, humanoid beings for unchecked violence, often specifically with the goal of occupying the land on which they live and taking away the valuables they possess."

That's pretty uncomfortably close to the way numerous real atrocities were conducted in human history. There's a pretty clear pattern: demonize the natives (sometimes literally equating them with demons!), claim their territory, treat all opposition purely as violent raiding rather than armed responses, trivialize or dismiss all social structures/monuments/environmental management as fake or induced or stolen from someone else, specifically categorize their native religions as horrible and brutal and evil-loving, etc. And wouldn't you know it: the deities of gnolls, orcs, and kobolds are all treated that way (Yeenoghu is a demon lord, Gruumsh is evil, Tiamat is evil); they're almost always native to whatever territory they occupy and driving them out of territory they've occupied for centuries or millennia is portrayed as an unalloyed win for good and justice; they have "barbaric" practices and all their activities tend to be summarized as "raiding" or "recovering from previous raiding," and they never build any temples or cities or roads or monuments, but do occasionally steal such works left behind by long-absent advanced precursor civilizations. And as a result of this list of things, they are acceptable to kill on sight without a second thought.

Note, when I mention these things, I am not saying that someone who enjoys a casual game of D&D where you fight Obvious Bad Guys and save Designated Damsel'd Victims (or take over the ransom yourself, or whatever) is in any way morally wrong. I mean, I've played hundreds of hours of Payday 2, a game where you are literally sitting on piles of hundreds of millions of dollars but continue to slaughter hundreds of private security dudes and public LEOs in order to steal valuable goods or commit election fraud--and I enjoyed those hours of play. I am NOT saying that engaging in a fictional demonstration of a thing with moral question marks on it is inherently bad. That would make me a hypocrite, which I'd rather not be if I can avoid it.

What I am saying is that having these things hard-coded into the game's fundamental rules, particularly when it's all implication without nuance, concerns me. With Payday, I go into it knowing that what I am doing in the virtual space is a fantasy about amoral assholes doing immoral things for fun and profit. I know where to draw the line. With D&D, that's not as clear. It is easy to say "these species are fictional," but the bright lines aren't present. Unless we do things with eyes fully open, mindful of our choices, it is easy to accidentally internalize thoughts or patterns that may be harmful--to ourselves or to others.

The lesson here is not to "sanitize" gaming or the like. Or at least it shouldn't be. That would just be a different kind of problem--namely, pretending the problem never existed and that everything has always been good and right since the beginning of time. (This is a common tactic for one civilization conquering and subjugating another, once the subjugation is complete: instead of depicting the subjugated as demons, which is implicitly empowering, force them into a "helpless victim OR willing participant OR crazy radical" trilemma, neatly negating any chance of true criticism or honest history--weak, willing, or wicked, you might say.)

Instead, the lesson should be for us to ask: Why do we play this way? Are there other ways to play? Can we enjoy different kinds of stories, or different approaches, or a more nuanced take on how we currently play?

Again, to use the example of my home setting, Jewel of the Desert aka the Tarrakhuna and its environs: I specifically set out to make a world that was very inclusive in most ways. I have had orc guard-captains, dwarf mining conglomerate owners, ogre caravanserai keepers, elf assassins, genasi alchemy shop owners, a woman on the most prestigious throne of the land, etc. I have made a religion with a specific reason why it accepts people of all races and all gender identities and orientations (the One, infinite creator of all things, cannot be understood fully by non-revelatory mortal knowing, so They are understood by Their infinitely-many facets--which may individually have masculine or feminine traits, but the One is too big, too much for a limited concept like mortal gender).

Part of this is because providing such a world is important to my players. Another part is just that I find this a more interesting milieu to play in--and, despite what some might think, it is inspired heavily by real history (in this case, the Islamic Golden Age and more than a little of the incredible cultural, philosophical, scientific, and religious attainment of Al-Andalus). And, finally? I find it interesting to challenge myself to answer: WHY are demons kill-on-sight? WHY are black dragons inherently Bad News, while gold dragons are awe-strikingly brilliant allies of good? I mean, I could just say "they are" and be done with it, but that's...boring. Actually digging in and asking these questions has led the game in so many interesting directions, I can't even begin to count them. We couldn't have the fights, funnies, or follies we've had if my players and I hadn't asked these questions and rigorously pursued the answers.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I think people are going too deep into it.

I think the point is that WOTC wants to divorce race from class for PCs and race from alignment for NPCs.

They want flexible ability scores for races so a PC of any race can be a good member of any class.

They want no defaults on racial alignment so a DM can choose how good or evil any race is at their table.
 

Horwath

Hero
I think people are going too deep into it.

I think the point is that WOTC wants to divorce race from class for PCs and race from alignment for NPCs.

They want flexible ability scores for races so a PC of any race can be a good member of any class.

They want no defaults on racial alignment so a DM can choose how good or evil any race is at their table.
I have no problem with removing ability score modifiers for "basic humanoid" races, so every class-race combo is viable.
Some small racial features can be enought to seek one race over another for certain character concept.

However, I do like that some races have highly preferred alignment.
As it gives an opportunity to play against the stereotype of the race. That is how heroes are made.

Who cares about a good Drow adventurer when on average there is 33% of good Drow adventurers,
same with good Orcs, or Lawful evil high elven overlords.
Playing a CN dwarf that will sell his own mother for a new magic item is interesting concept when it is almost unheard of within dwarven community.
 

Minigiant

Legend
However, I do like that some races have highly preferred alignment.
As it gives an opportunity to play against the stereotype of the race. That is how heroes are made.

So nothing changes for you. You can still play your dwarf against type.

As the DM will get decide the type and doesn't feel bound to old gimmicks.

So at one table, an offtype dwarf is a CN wizard. At another table, an off type dwarf is lawful deep mountain explorer.
 


Stormonu

Legend
I really don't care what WotC decides. Orcs & goblins will be miscreants used in my games for fodder for killing. Demons and Devils will be pure evil, nobody trusts the wicked drow and gnolls will be cannibalistic ner'dowells.

Unless a player wants to run one, like my son who ran Nob the (good) goblin Summoner, and his "manservant", the (neutral/good) goblin Droop.

But gnolls, they will always remain irredeemable.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Given contemporary arguments, how is "deserve" defined?

Through the lens of modern real-world culture, it could be argued that there's never a reason for a creature to deserve to die. Asmodeus could be one chai latte and one heart-to-heart talk away from being redeemed.

From more of a meta-game view, it also could be argued (and has been in the past) that attaching an XP value to the lives of creatures -for the purposes of measuring advancement- promotes undesirable behavior among players of the game.

This if you're looking at being offended one would think this would be a trigger.

Eventually they're just gonna have to say don't like it don't buy it or put PG13 on it or something.
 


Horwath

Hero
So nothing changes for you. You can still play your dwarf against type.

As the DM will get decide the type and doesn't feel bound to old gimmicks.

So at one table, an offtype dwarf is a CN wizard. At another table, an off type dwarf is lawful deep mountain explorer.
isn't it better to have(in some settings) predefined cultures and their aptitude towards good or evil, with a sidenote that you can change that if it works better for your personal style of play.

If all humanoids in a setting are capable of any morality or alignment by default, we will just get whole bunch of different flavored description of human.

Here are humans, then pointy-ear human, short humans, tall humans, bulky humans, winged humans, "have some flavor of nine hells" humans, etc...
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
When do we get to the part where people complain that "killing people and taking their stuff" in the real world is wrong, so we should take it out of D&D?
That was the original complaint against war gamers and TTRPGs. Before allegations of racism and sexism, before the satanic panic, the community was characterized as a bunch of warmongers who glorified violence.

The criticisms of violence in gaming never really went away, they just changed their focus to video games. There are influential international organizations calling for military-themed war games to adhere to international law. Inevitably, this will trickle down to TTRPGs. But unlike video games, there is little companies and governments can do to control what happens at your table. It is up the DM and players how these issues are handled in their games.
 

As far as the characters in the setting know? Their gods certainly exist. Of course, different peoples have different myths, which are often mutually contradictory. Who’s right? Maybe no one. There’s no way to know for sure.
I like this, and for my homebrew world outside of D&D I use this. No real direct intervention, in fact some of the spells seem more empathic than deity oriented. Again, who knows. But for D&D, with its vast landscape of gods and all the permeations into the mortal world, it just seems off. Heck, even the last AP, Frostmaiden, is specifically about a god messing with common folks.
I’m not sure I understand the question. Yuan-ti are snake people, mind flatters are alien parasites, frost giants are elemental creations of the primordials, and orcs are a people who believe themselves to be descended from the one-eyed God Gruumsh.
Fair enough. If you don't get it, then you don't get it. You answer the question here anyway:
Pretty much.
If you say every sentient thing is morally gray, therefore everyone is basically neutral, and just happen to play on their interest, that's cool. It doesn't seem to play nice with the way D&D and its rule system is set up for me, but maybe I've just never had your experiences.
Because I find it distasteful?
This is the part I still don't understand. Do you find the table play distasteful? The people distasteful for accepting such play?
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Wizards is actively doing that right now, so I'd encourage them to continue until this isn't a problem in published material.
If individuals at conventions or home tables keep trying to inject racist tropes into specific races, then we should call them on it, and let them know that it is racist.
Sorry if I was unclear but you misunderstand.

I meant about the people who see the racist tropes in a game where the races are fantasy. It goes back to how some people see themselves in races that are alien to humans. While you might identify with another race, you aren't them and they aren't you--it is fantasy--they don't exist. It is why I explained how I've never seen racist tropes in D&D because I don't identify with an alien race like elf, dwarf, half-orc, etc.

I don't know if that makes any more sense or not, but that's the distinction I'm talking about.
 

The problem, is that those faerun orcs are that and only that yet somehow they haven't collapsed & nobody has eradicated them. A lot of people think that's what the mongol army was & why I mentioned the mongols doing more, but the reality was very different as an advanced extremely professional army (by the standards of the time) that did a great deal to enable trade, spread knowledge, allow education, & advance civilization.. not only that they had motivations like making money & doing those things to make it.. the always evil style orcs of faerun do none of that and have no civilization capable of maintaining stability without descending into a self destructive chaos.
An extremely professional army that is organized has little to do with how evil they are. If they come in and take over, encourage road building through forced labor camps, take a bunch of teens as sex slaves, yet still pay the village for their goods - they are evil. The fact that good things are being done by them is a side effect. Their acts and intentions are evil, and anyone that tries to stop them from these acts will pay a price.
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Don't frying them to sell as Slaves is not too much better...
For the gnolls maybe it id different in 5: they are basically Demons bound in humanoid form. So probably they don't really count, if the player characters know that.
That is basically the core of the issue:
If there are Races that are pure evil by default, and each individual with no exception is, then you basically can justify killing them all, because you know as a fact that they would exactly do the same to you.
The problem is: do you want humanoids that are basically humans with pointy ears or a little bit short?
Probably not.

I really liked the warcraft 3 depictation of Orcs: honourful people, and a lot of humans were not so much.
So they were all shades of grey/colorful instead of black and white.

When I rember back in the 90s, when we started playing, we had hefty discussion about our cleric even taking joy in torturing/killing goblin and orc children because he deemed them unrevokably evil, while the rest of the group protested heavily because they were humanoids and children nontheless.
(Emphasis mine)

Who the hell said ANYTHING about selling them as slaves? That is quite the leap you made there and shows me something about the assumptions you make. The reason they were being paid to bring them in alive was so the castle lord could get information from them (if any) about the upcoming invasion those races were part of. Jeez...

And if you read all of my posts on this issue you would know the player in question reflected on his choices, felt badly about them, and removed that PC from the game.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I hate to break it to you, but “killing people and taking their stuff” hasn’t been what D&D is about for years.
I hate to break it to you, but it is certainly a large part of what D&D is about. I had a 25 year gaming gap. There are some major changes in how the game is played these days compared to the 80s, but mostly this has to do with cleaner mechanics, more modern sensibilities on sex and increasingly on race, and much stronger emphasis on story.

But every D&D game I've played in, whether at conventions, Adventurer's League, or private games have involved significant amounts of combat. And even with how AL rules control and abstract wealth and treasure, I don't recall any party going to turn in the shinnies to the local authority's lost-property office. Nor do I recall parties just leaving treasure where it lie. Maybe a McGuffin or two where the hook of the adventure was to recover something for some one, but those recovery operations tended to involve some baddies getting killed and non-McGuffin loot being taken.

The only D&D games I can think of that didn't involve some killing and looting were those I've run. But even in my home games, these tend to be mini campaigns or single-session affairs, because that's just not the kind of game most players expect and come to play. And I find this across races, sexes, and age groups.

I don't think it is just an observation colored by my cohort bubble. I see the same thing playing Roll20 games overseas where I'm the only American in the group. And, hell, look at the rules. There are a heck of a lot of rules for adjudicating killing. Look at the official (and most third-party adventures) adventures. Seems like you are expected, if not encourages, and certainly given ample opportunity to kill and loot.

Any impartial observer, even if they have never played D&D in their life, even if they have had no exposure to TTRPGs, can spend a few minutes browsing the core books or an adventure and see that it is a game that involves killing or looting.

We can debate whether that is good or bad. Whether the game should be fundamentally changed to discourage this play-style. But to say that the game hasn't been about this for a long time is a bit silly.
 

(Though it is worth noting that the party bard is literally descended from a now-former succubus. She has come to love the mortal world for what it is, its fragile beauty. She only just realized that her long-dead husband is the one who gave her a new True Name, making her something....no longer demon, but not the celestial servant she was, either. Having passed her powers to said bard so he can use them for good, it is now possible for her to die a mortal death, which normally isn't something celestial-origin beings are capable of.)
I like this. Very cool.
 

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