D&D 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.


@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'.

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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Thanks for letting us know how prejudiced you are. That anyone who doesn't agree with you is a racist. Good to see people actually say what they think - if you don't agree with an opinion then not only are you wrong, it's okay to smear them.
Blatant dishonesty on your part here.

There are plenty of people X hasn’t even vaguely implied are racist, who disagree with them.

Your particular choice of retort is reminiscent of a troll from the worst recesses of Reddit or 4chan.

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Staff member
In some case, the situation is more complicated. Though I share the idea that "treat other like you would be treated" has merit, it can lead to complication when one has peculiar idea on how to be treated. Maya culture certainly had unwilling human sacrifice, but many were and conflict was "staged" to create oportunity to capture people for sacrifice when a captured warrior was needed. So basically, you had part of the Mayan population who could be both proponent of human sacrifice AND adhering to this principle, since they would have no problem being sacrificed. From an utilitarian point of view, it was totally ethical for them to practice human sacrifice as it was needed for the world to continue to exist. So the trade off of some lives joining with the gods vs all life being wiped out was acceptable. Their view of human sacrifice was uninformed (human sacrifices stopped and the world did'nt end, so maybe their fundamental assumption was flawed) but ethical. I admit it's a peculiar case, but as I am arguing against the idea that morality is absolute and unchanging, bringing border case is useful.

LIke I said, the golden rule is NOT universally followed. And the Mayans were certainly one I had in mind when I made sure I didn’t suggest the principle was universal.

Still, without actual Mayans to interview, the nagging unanswerable question of how universal the belief in the necessity and value of human sacrifice actually was remains. Did everyone believe, or was the doctrine more of a top down, good for thee but not for me kind of thing, like good christian slaveowners?

In some case, actually worse. IIRC, the Hammurabi code valued a slave less than an ox. But the problem arise because they were dehumanizing humans. Can Neanderthal be dehumanized? Can a pig that we kill for food?

Considering that Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA can be found in the genome of modern humans, Yes they could be dehumanized. Both were much like us- upright walking, sentient, tool-using, culture having hominids- and we interbred with them on occasion. Yet, up until relatively recently, they were often depicted as barely more than hairless gorillas, and often quite stupid. Geico lampshaded this for a while.

To be hypocritical, it's not US who must know that their victims were human, but them. If we know something that was not known, we can say that they were uninformed, but not hypocritical. Slave owners in the 19th century had all the information available to be sure that their slaves were human (and were hypocritical because their interest simply trumped their morality), but I am not sure it was that evident from your average Middle East denizen that Sea People were the same as them.

Given their tech, I’d think the average Middle Eastern person would view the Sea People kind of like Europeans viewed the Vikings- demonizing rather than dehumanizing. Whether that was literal or metaphorical, I can’t say.

Fiction, or faith?
Fiction, at least for those of the Abrahamic faiths. While slavery is indeed mentioned and normalized in the holy writings of those three faith traditions, AFAIK, nothing in them implies that certain people are inherently inferior, bestial or the like. Unenlightened, yes, but not utterly incapable of enlightenment. And yet you’ll see many fine upstanding citizens opine in writing about how difficult it will be to bring the word of God to the godless, precisely because they lack intellect or certain human characteristics.

Hell. that kind of infantilizing mentality is why the rules for American protectorates and territories were written so as to limit the political powers of those Natural
American citizens
to exclude full voting/candidacy rights to this very day. The Insular Cases of the late 1890s early 1900s deemed that “alien races” could not properly grasp “Anglo-Saxon” laws.
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Morkus from Orkus
I don't think that you are representing @PsyzhranV2's argument well or with much good faith here, Max. Because I don't think that he is arguing what you think that he is arguing. PsyzhranV2 is not arguing that racism cannot exist as part of the in-game constructs of the fiction, but, they are arguing that the in-game fiction does not absolve it of its use of harmful racist rhetoric as part of the game's fiction. Racism can exist, but there is not exactly nuance in how the player and GM books depict orcs with the same racist rhetoric that is regularly employed by white supremacists against ethnic minorities.
I don't see any racist rhetoric going on with the orc description. And stop accusing me of arguing in bad faith. I don't do that.


Their existence isn’t a prop for you to use to try and dismiss issues being raised by other POC.

It is not a dismissal and they are not a prop. It should be noted these inflammatory words are your words not mine.

Would you dismiss their opinions on orcs, drow and/or vistani?


Morkus from Orkus
It is one sentence from the 5e description, Max. Plus, this invites the question why the 5e art team did not get this memo.
It is the ONLY 5e description. The rest is about their culture. It's what they look like. Abd it wouldn't be the first time in the history of D&D that artists didn't match a description properly. It wouldn't even be the 100th time. It happens a lot.

It is not a dismissal and they are not a prop. It should be noted these inflammatory words are your words not mine.

Would you dismiss their opinions on orcs, drow and/or vistani?
Lot of times. People are not aware. So. Show them descriptions. And discuss. Based on conclusions. Not simply decide on behalf of groups.

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