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5E WotC's Jeremy Crawford on D&D Races Going Forward

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On Twitter, Jeremy Crawford discussed the treatment of orcs, Vistani, drow and others in D&D, and how WotC plans to treat the idea of 'race' in D&D going forward. In recent products (Eberron and Wildemount), the mandatory evil alignment was dropped from orcs, as was the Intelligence penalty.


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@ThinkingDM Look at the treatment orcs received in Eberron and Exandria. Dropped the Intelligence debuff and the evil alignment, with a more acceptable narrative. It's a start, but there's a fair argument for gutting the entire race system.

The orcs of Eberron and Wildemount reflect where our hearts are and indicate where we’re heading.


@vorpaldicepress I hate to be "that guy", but what about Drow, Vistani, and the other troublesome races and cultures in Forgotten Realms (like the Gur, another Roma-inspired race)? Things don't change over night, but are these on the radar?

The drow, Vistani, and many other folk in the game are on our radar. The same spirit that motivated our portrayal of orcs in Eberron is animating our work on all these peoples.


@MileyMan1066 Good. These problems need to be addressed. The variant features UA could have a sequel that includes notes that could rectify some of the problems and help move 5e in a better direction.

Addressing these issues is vital to us. Eberron and Wildemount are the first of multiple books that will face these issues head on and will do so from multiple angles.


@mbriddell I'm happy to hear that you are taking a serious look at this. Do you feel that you can achieve this within the context of Forgotten Realms, given how establised that world's lore is, or would you need to establish a new setting to do this?

Thankfully, the core setting of D&D is the multiverse, with its multitude of worlds. We can tell so many different stories, with different perspectives, in each world. And when we return to a world like FR, stories can evolve. In short, even the older worlds can improve.


@SlyFlourish I could see gnolls being treated differently in other worlds, particularly when they’re a playable race. The idea that they’re spawned hyenas who fed on demon-touched rotten meat feels like they’re in a different class than drow, orcs, goblins and the like. Same with minotaurs.

Internally, we feel that the gnolls in the MM are mistyped. Given their story, they should be fiends, not humanoids. In contrast, the gnolls of Eberron are humanoids, a people with moral and cultural expansiveness.


@MikeyMan1066 I agree. Any creature with the Humanoid type should have the full capacity to be any alignmnet, i.e., they should have free will and souls. Gnolls... the way they are described, do not. Having them be minor demons would clear a lot of this up.

You just described our team's perspective exactly.


As a side-note, the term 'race' is starting to fall out of favor in tabletop RPGs (Pathfinder has "ancestry", and other games use terms like "heritage"); while he doesn't comment on that specifically, he doesn't use the word 'race' and instead refers to 'folks' and 'peoples'.
 
Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

aco175

Hero
Do we know where this is coming from? Does it stem from the recent Black Lives Movement or is it more to unify the fantasy worlds and treat all the monster races more like the traditional PC races.

I tend to play just in FR for the last while so I'm not having any problems with orcs from one world being different than what we have been playing. Same with the other races. My group does not really play 'monster' races as PCs, but I know many like the idea.
 


Fenris447

Explorer
There's certainly room for a discussion of problematic cultural stereotyping in the fantasy genre. And I'll be okay if we need to change the terminology we use. But I worry that there will be an overcorrection to just make everything unnecessarily homogenous.

Just like in real life, the greatest good for society comes from celebrating diversity and the different perspectives it can bring us. Ignoring differences is a disservice to everyone who deviates from a decided norm, and in not something I want in my games or my life.

Just spitballing here, but maybe the game mechanics solution could come in the form of separating physiological differences (STR, DEX, CON) from cultural differences (INT, WIS, CHA). The term "Race" can relate to the former, while backgrounds or maybe a new category of "Culture" can govern the other? We know a big minotaur man will be, in general, stronger than a halfling. But cultural values will dictate whether a character has spent time honing an aspect of their mind and personality.
 



clearstream

Be just and fear not...
There's certainly room for a discussion of problematic cultural stereotyping in the fantasy genre. And I'll be okay if we need to change the terminology we use. But I worry that there will be an overcorrection to just make everything unnecessarily homogenous.

Just like in real life, the greatest good for society comes from celebrating diversity and the different perspectives it can bring us. Ignoring differences is a disservice to everyone who deviates from a decided norm, and in not something I want in my games or my life.

Just spitballing here, but maybe the game mechanics solution could come in the form of separating physiological differences (STR, DEX, CON) from cultural differences (INT, WIS, CHA). The term "Race" can relate to the former, while backgrounds or maybe a new category of "Culture" can govern the other? We know a big minotaur man will be, in general, stronger than a halfling. But cultural values will dictate whether a character has spent time honing an aspect of their mind and personality.
One problem is generalising, so that an entire race is given the same inclinations and ability modifiers. Perhaps there could be greater diversity, were diversity recognised within species. It's a difficult area, and I feel far from having good answers.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I see them going more towards a species, rather than race terminology, with subcultures instead of subraces. And every race being able to choose a subculture. Kind of like with classes and backgrounds now.

Choose your species, which grants inherent benefits (like darkvision, or dragon breath), then choose a subculture (a scholarly culture would grant INT bonuses, while a war culture might grant CON or DEX), etc. That way, the ability modifiers aren't tied to a specific race/species, but the background and culture that race/species has evolved into over generations.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
We're talking about player characters though. So why not have a halfling that's as strong as the minotaur, if that's the player's vision? Why have the rules prevent that character choice? PCs are heroes!
Indeed. My minotaur detests all forms of exercise, and has a troubling penchant for laudanum. One could let the dice decide (or guide) to such things, though. Mechanically, it makes a lot of sense to offer packages of advantages and disadvantages, and to make those recognisable on a unit type. It allows variety and balance, and parsability. Almost all halflings are lucky, everyone knows it.

Perhaps the happy path is to separate ability packages somewhat from race, so that they come more from background. And instead with race offer incommensurables. Luck versus dark vision, say.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Sure, generalizing is bad for looking at behavior......but shouldn't MOST minotaurs be stronger than an average human or halfling? I too worry that making every humanoid "the same" in terms of rules makes them less useful and interesting. The rules define what things are in the game, striking a balance is difficult, imo.

Also, I'm not sure every player wants a grey world......sometimes it is nice to know some black and white, we are, after all, mostly fighting and killing (and yes, some games aren't like this......but I'd bet good money most are).
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
I see them going more towards a species, rather than race terminology, with subcultures instead of subraces. And every race being able to choose a subculture. Kind of like with classes and backgrounds now.

Choose your species, which grants inherent benefits (like darkvision, or dragon breath), then choose a subculture (a scholarly culture would grant INT bonuses, while a war culture might grant CON or DEX), etc. That way, the ability modifiers aren't tied to a specific race/species, but the background and culture that race/species has evolved into over generations.
Maybe backgrounds does the work of subcultures? With perhaps some guidance for players as to likely (but not mechanically forced) race-background pairings. So if I am a blacksmith, I get +1 Con, say.
 

imagineGod

Adventurer
I know we all love the traditional Wizards of the Coast role playing game. Yet, there are so many 5th Edition options from other publishers, like Studio Agate, the French crew who created the Fategorge RPG on Kickstater, that do not seem to get much traction in the D&D 5e fandom. :.-(

In the Fateforge world of Eana, all the fantasy races have deep and immersive cultures, and the artwork puts this right in front of the reader. Beautiful.

Best part is that the rules mechanics are not really changed from the original 5th Edition SRD, just the lore speaks volumes of difference.

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fateforge_fantasy_art_duird.jpg
fateforge_fantasy_art_shaman.jpg
 

Envisioner

Explorer
I would be far more in favor of removing the term "race" from real life and keeping it in D&D. The worlds of Oerth, Toril, Krynn and so forth don't have a history of medical pseudoscience tied up in that word; in those universes it is a valid descriptor of what we here in reality call "culture" and "ethnicity" as well as "species" - all of those terms change meaning drastically in a setting which legitimately has biologically distinct peoples competing for the world's limited resources and navigating the issues of coexistence. The only thing our planet had which is even close to that level of division is the period in our distant prehistory where Cro-Magnon Man coexisted with the Neanderthals; the D&D setting is so much more alien than even that situation that it's kind of foolish to look at it through a realistic lens. And if we have to choose, the D&D application of the term is far more worthy of preservation than the actual-world one.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Sure, generalizing is bad for looking at behavior......but shouldn't MOST minotaurs be stronger than an average human or halfling? I too worry that making every humanoid "the same" in terms of rules makes them less useful and interesting. The rules define what things are in the game, striking a balance is difficult, imo.
This idea of most minotaurs being stronger than the average human or halfling would get represented by the Monster Manual entries, rather than the Player's Handbook. After all... those are the statblocks that represent most of a particular species or ancestry. In any game you play there will be 10s to 100 times more MM minotaurs, humans, and halflings in a game than PC minotaurs, humans, and halflings. So since the PCs are all special representatives of their respective species or ancestries... they do not need to have the same "averages" added into their Ability Scores during character creation. Leave the "stronger" average minotaurs to the Monster Manual.

And as far as worrying about species seeming all the same if you were to remove ability score modifier bonuses... those numbers have absolutely no noticeable impact one the characters are created anyway ( UNLESS the stat has been maxed out.) If a minotaur PC has a STR 15... is that a 15 because the player bought a 15, or because they bought a 13 and added +2 due to an ability score modifier bonus? And does it even matter? Because once the game actually starts... all that ends up mattering is merely that the PC has a 15 STR. How or why they acquired that 15 means absolutely nothing. So it's not like having racial bonuses or not having racial bonuses to ability scores actually affects how these characters are played.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Not that I want to get too deep into this (because I don't think there is or needs to be one "right" answer) but I have two issues with this.

First, if sentient means free will then I don't see why we stop at humanoids. IMHO if a gnoll has free will to change their alignment from their default then a succubus or a beholder should have the same option. The carrying case for the brain shouldn't matter.

The other is the whole "If an orc is raised correctly they'll be good" is IMHO worse and smacks more of colonialism than a simple "Orcs are a different species and were created by an evil god for the purpose of being an instrument of that evil god's will. They simply don't think like humans." If alignment becomes just a reflection of culture ... I dunno. It just feels worse to me.

On the other hand it doesn't really matter to my home campaign since I already think there are too many player races without also throwing in traditionally "monstrous" races as PCs.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I hate to be "that guy", but what about Drow, Vistani, and the other troublesome races and cultures in Forgotten Realms

Addressing this before getting into the rest- it always bugs me when I see this, because Drow are the quintessential Greyhawk race. They were added in the GDQ series, they were added by Gygax, and so on. Yes, I know Drizzt and all that, but it still irks me.

Before getting into any more problematic territory, I think (hope?) it goes without saying that there is a difference between problematic treatment of races when we are discussing humans (such as the Vistani, who appear to be heavily modeled after the Romani people) as opposed to made-up fantasy races (such as halflings, orcs, or gnolls).

I don't have very strong opinions on this issue when it comes to PCs. PCs tend to be sui generis; exceptions to the rule. But I think that there is some benefit to presenting monocultures for various reasons in fantasy games. That isn't to say that there aren't aspects of presenting a monoculture that aren't realistic, but rather that it is difficult to model the real-world complexity of life in a game. As such, I can see there being "evil races" or "evil nations" without too much worry.

Then again, I can certainly understand why there might be concerns with the traditional presentation in fantasy of those tropes; goodness is associated with white/light, and evil with darkness and black and other terms that have not ages well.

Eh ....
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I would be far more in favor of removing the term "race" from real life and keeping it in D&D.
That's fine and all... but one is actually doable because it affects a single game design company making a publishing change... while the other involves billions of people all agreeing to stop using a word. So the path to least resistance means taking out the word race in D&D is the easier accomplished.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
I'm looking on the bright side, here. As D&D continues to lead the way in setting an upright example for the industry, it will open up more opportunities for competitors to fill in the gaps. The fun, interesting, pagan gaps...
 

Fenris447

Explorer
We're talking about player characters though. So why not have a halfling that's as strong as the minotaur, if that's the player's vision? Why have the rules prevent that character choice? PCs are heroes!
I totally agree. That’s why I was saying in general. The base racial bonuses represent the physiological advantages one species has over the others. The stats that a player then buys into represent what their specific character has done with their life. So a Minotaur has an easier time getting 16 Strength because their bodies are more inclined to be strong. A halfling can still get 16 Strength, but it’s the result of them focusing their life on overcoming their diminutive physiology.
 

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