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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


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Perhaps if you take into account the relative races of the heroes, this would seem more clear.

If it is unclear, this may assist:

If 99% of heroes are white, and 75% of villains are white, is that an issue?

How much do you have to play with the numbers to make it an issue?

But if you create an human hero, nothing prevent you to do it black. And Orcs... I remember they were green/brown. And goblin in the MM are yellowish but I remember also green. Maybe I'm wrong but I remember only drow to be black and in that case their somatic traits are far from afroamerican, they have typical elven traits. Do you remember any other race that is ontologically bad/stupid and black? This is not a rethoric question.
 

People keep defaulting to the assumption that skin colour is homogenous across races in the game.

Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and tieflings have all be depicted as having dark skin at the same time as being heroic and good. I’d go so far as to say it seems to be a key editorial decision in commissioning art in 5e.

I genuinely think you are barking up the wrong tree by saying that.

i used the examples not relating to skin colour but to make it clear that ‘Good‘ does not equal ‘Same‘. I could use any number of examples of good creatures in the MM. Those were just featured as major NPC communities in the last three campaigns I read.

You don't think D&D has been drifting away from negative stereotype for years, even before JC's post?

I'm honestly perplexed that you are arguing with the general trend. Of course there are going to be counterexamples, with more and more of them in recent years. But if you don't perceive the overall pattern...well, I guess there's no point arguing about it. I'm certainly not going to spend the next week or two compiling data.
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
Is there a button that means "Like" but moreso?

In fact, I'll add:

Not only am I not disrespected by PoC and other minorities saying they suffer PTSD from systematic and repeated racism and oppression, it's because I'm a veteran I will do everything in my power to help them and stop what's causing the abuse. I kinda sorta swore an oath to that effect when I joined. As did every other veteran. Many of whom need to be reminded of that, IMO.

I'm sorry if my posts seem a bit....hostile. But it peeves me to no end when people try to use me and people like me to score political points in an argument that is trying to minimalize the suffering experienced by others. It's not a contest.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
But if you create an human hero, nothing prevent you to do it black.

The great writer Alan Moore stated the following in the introudction to The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft:

Far from outlandish eccentricities, the fears that generated Lovecraft’s stories and opinions were precisely those of the white, middle-class, heterosexual, Protestant-descended males who were most threatened by the shifting power relationships and values of the modern world.


The more things change, right?

Sometimes you can have something as explicit as The Street, with immigrants and non-whites being castigated in clear terms (swarthy, furtive, sinister, stench, etc.). Other times, things can be less clear- either a product of their time (arguably a lot of racial coding is simply a product of a different era) or a reflection of the various biases that can influence people.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
When your entire society is a consumerist capitalist engine designed to move as much product as possible, in order to harvest the maximum possible product before the next financial quarter comes up, then yeah you pretty much do.

Which is why we should stop operating that way.
Glad you’ve come around, comrade.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
The ones who want to change the dictionary believing that this adjust the world.

I think you should take more time to think about this.

Dictionaries are powerful. Regimes, dictatorships and nefarious ideologies have always used words exactly to shape (i.e. break) the world to their liking. Fascist Italy even had a specific ministry for this.
 

Gradine

Final Form
Conflating people's "trauma" over perceived social ostracism, with PTSD caused by going to war and having bombs explode all around you and turn your best friend into a pink mist before your eyes, is tremendously disrespectful to actual veterans. Assuming the absolute worst assertions of these people are true, that they really are subjected to a continual onslaught of blatant racism or misogyny or the like, that still doesn't deserve to be called PTSD. I can't even imagine how offensive hearing about that kind of thing must be, to someone who has actually suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of their war experiences.

I recognize that this person has been dis-invited from this thread (forum?) and Sacrosanct has covered this already beautifully, but I do want to reiterate for anyone else still following that PTSD is not a disorder exclusive to military veterans or even people who have experienced living in a warzone (which, by the way, also includes more than just people in the military) but rather for people who have experienced trauma in general, which can take many, many, MANY number of shapes.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
A tangential issue came to my mind...

Despite having friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, I just realized I have never personally known someone affected by dwarfism. Has anyone ever played a RPG with such a person? How did they react to having a Dwarf race in the game, or for example how did they feel about Tolkien books and movies?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Oh yeah we do. Continuously. In every media. Since long time.

Allow me to rephrase more clearly - escapism is not the only reason people ever tell stories. And, a story that is escapism for one person is not necessarily just escapism for others.

Whether "escapism" really absolves one of all responsibility for moral content is a another discussion. That seems like just moving the goalposts from "fantasy" to "escapism".

There is a narrative need of telling a fantasy story that is fantasy because it's not real. Ruling out fantasies is the wet dream of any totalitarian dictatorship. You want to delete horror movies. You want to delete thriller books. Only controlled, allowed fantasies from now on.

sigh. Good grief. Really? This alarmist rhetoric is not at all convincing, you know.

No, I don't want to delete horro or thriller stories or books. I am simply understanding of how writers and publishers of a game system can want to adjust the basic presentation of their game. What you do with it at home is your business.

No, people takes offence. It's different. And people takes offence because they think they are so important that the world should revolve around them and their measure.

Oooh. Double-edged sword there. By that logic, you are taking offense at the changes, and everything you say there applies to you, just as it does to those you disagree with. This doesn't help your case in the slightest.

Because a world of make-believe never damaged anyone. Real world practical privileges damage people: the N-word doesn't kill (in fact it's widely used between black people), modern slavery does.

If a world of make-believe never damaged anyone, then no damage comes to you from a world of make-believe that follows the new direction that Jeremy Crawford suggests. Then you are arguing for nothing.

In reality, though, you entire position is based on how words have convinced WotC to change their approach to races. Words can obviously change things. Words therefore have power. Anything that has power can be used for harm. And it is then quite reasonable for people who do not actually want to do harm to change their words to avoid doing so.

Maybe you forget that, for you, at home at your gameing table, your personal words don't travel far. They have little impact, little power. You don't need to take much care about unintentionally causing harm.

WotC sells books by the truckload, in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Their wrods have greater reach, and thus more power, and so they need to take more care.

Yeah, a respectful game that has one of its three pillars in combat and violence and appropriation of treasures from others.
Do you hear the ridiculousness of the whole point?

Yep. You can have stories that are full of violence that are respectful to the audience.



We are not talking about a narration.

Stefano Rinaldelli said:
"Create a race to be functional to a narration..."

"This doesn't mean that all Free People are smart and good and for narrative purposes..."

"...the true reason for these races to exist: narrative need of sentient beings in conflit or alliance with humans. "

Those are all your words. For someone not talking about narration... you refer to it an awful lot.


And now I want to come to this phrase you have written:

When you create a race that has too many points of similarity to how a group of real world people are also often depicted, then you do offend people.

False. Removing some elements from that race in response of the fact that some racist can make a parallel between Afroamericans and Orcs means two things: you are admitting that you were thinking of Afroamericans when you were in the process of creating Orcs.

Nothing is ever that simple. Not all racism is willful, self-aware choice. A great deal of racism is committed and perpetuated via thoughtless habit. It still harms people. All WotC is doing is removing some of that thoughtlessness.
 

So here's the thing:

The problem with very very always evil rampaging Orcs isn't necessarily that they (a) have an Int penalty, (b) they're referred to as a "race", or (c) they can be identifiably linked to a real-life race. Though these things can and have been problematic.

Here's the big issue:

Look, over there! There's a group of humanoids that theoretically have intelligence, culture, and free will. They're also irredeemably evil to the last; go and slaughter them all! That'll make you great heroes!

It's the mindset that we should treat the wholesale slaughter of living breathing people as unequivocally good. It's not just a problematic mindset; it's dangerous
Ho! Look at these! They did not respond to our peace talk offerings. They slew our diplomats. They rape, torture and kill our people (and not necessarily in that order) and when they're finished, they animate our people into undead things to fight for them. They sacrifice their prisonners to their dark god (Iuz) and once the sacrificed are dead, they get transformed into undead too. They even animate their fallen soldiers into undead as to continue the fight against us.

But I sure that some of them are real good fellow deep down their heart so let's not take any chance and let them do their stuff. Surely they will finally see the light.

As you can see in this example, the LG society did try to reason with the orcs. They failed. Then they saw what the orcs and their dark god did and they acted accordingly. Not by letting the orcs continue as they wanted but by declaring a crusade against them and their dark gods.

Attacking without provocations is not LG. But once provoked, a response will be made. Only self delusional people would let such heinous acts continue. I never said that the eradication or a crusade against a race would not be provoked. The LG society will try to reason, but once that solution has been discarded, this society is left with only one conclusion and only one course of action. Letting your own people, old, young, men, women and children getting slaughtered is not a Lawful and Good thing to do.

The difference between a LG society (or person) falling into evil or not, is about when the said society (or person) will stop itself. At a certain point, the killing must stop. A LG will have to restrain itself at some point when the threath caused by the race/invader is over. Will they pursue? Will they let the evil ones go?

On the first invasion, the LG society will let the survivors go. Maybe on the second too, the third, fourth, fifth... But at some point, even a LG will have to admit that there is no hopes of reasoning with such brutes and they will start to apply the only possible solution. Heck, the people themselves will ask for such a move. Humans are able to do this to themselves and not even because of the extreme example I gave. Remember what happened in Rwanda or what americans did to the indians. If we can do this to ourselves, imagine what we can do to an entirely unrelated specie.

Don't get me wrong, I do not advocate such things IRL. This is a game. This is not reality. Orcs are not black people and have nothing to do with them. Just as Hobgoblins are not a substitute for whatever you want them to be related to. Evil humanoids are just that. Evil humanoids. Do not associate them with imagined real life counter part.
 


Warren Ellis

Explorer
Also honestly, wouldn't it be insulting to claim to 5e default orcs or whatever are somehow connected to PoC?

Especially when said PoCs don't even have cultures or lifestyles that represent or seem similar the kind of barbarian lifestyle orcs are often presented as having?

And looking back on it now, wouldn't half-elves and half-orcs be a better PoC representation because in many settings both are treated kind of shittily in-setting and often face predjudice?
 
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