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.


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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'.
 

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However, I do hope that WotC and other publishers continue to rethink whether this should be the default narrative. Because I do believe that it ("it" being the narrative that some groups are just bad and it's ok to treat them worse than we treat cattle) perpetuates a myth rooted in an ugly and destrutive human instinct.

But isn't "it" essentially monsters, and the purpose they serve in myth and stories? To defeat the monstrous 'other' that threatens the in-group. Remove that from a game like D&D and what you have left is unrecognizable.

The line between orcs, ogres, and ettins is pretty arbitrary. To me they're all monsters. You can present a rounded, even sympathetic depiction of Grendel and still make him a monster. But do away with the monster part entirely and we have something that no longer looks much like heroic fiction.
 

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I'd argue that you need more that just sentience to qualify as a PC. Dogs are sentient.

You'd need
  1. Sentience- able to perceive or feel things for itself
  2. Sapience- able to reason and be wise for itself
  3. Personality- able to sense and create a consciousness for itself
to not be playing a robot.

I am using the word "sentient" in the sense of "sapient", like "sentient lifeforms" meaning intelligent life.

Also, in the sense that players can and do play an animal, that would drag it into the category of nonlethal combat.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Biological Species is an accepted and standard definition related to fecundity, but if you look closer even this definition has problems. natura non facit saltus

And given the problems, it shouldn't be a problem to call Orcs and Humans and Elves different species then, right? (I mean, everyone agrees the Macaws are different species even though they interbreed. Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. The beefalo.) If Orcs and Elves can't breed, would that make it a Orcs-Humans-Elves a ring species (the classic example of which contains a string of different species in the same genus).
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
I'm sorry, forgive my ignorance, but how is the name Ember "unfortunate" exactly?
An ember is a piece of glowing coal or wood in a dying fire. Imo that's getting a little too close to referencing her skin colour, as coal is known for its blackness.

The word "sooty" (soot being a product of burning coal) is a racial slur for a black person.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
But isn't "it" essentially monsters, and the purpose they serve in myth and stories? To defeat the monstrous 'other' that threatens the in-group. Remove that from a game like D&D and what you have left is unrecognizable.

The line between orcs, ogres, and ettins is pretty arbitrary. To me they're all monsters. You can present a rounded, even sympathetic depiction of Grendel and still make him a monster. But do away with the monster part entirely and we have something that no longer looks much like heroic fiction.

If you're talking about John Gardner's Grendel that's a great example.

But that's a single creature. It's the treatment of entire populations of human-like creatures...not just one community of them but all of them...as irredeemably evil (and stupid) that I think is problematic. The less human-like the creature, the safer it probably is. Is there a clear line? No. But a lot of things don't have clear lines between right and wrong that are worth trying to get right anyway.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I am using the word "sentient" in the sense of "sapient", like "sentient lifeforms" meaning intelligent life.

Same difference.
Orcs under the thumb of Gruumsh and Gnolls controlled by Yeenoghu are not on your terms "sentient lifeforms".
 

Mecheon

Sacabambaspis
Last time WoTC went on a spree of twisting the mechanics players had to come up with Pathfinder, and we halved the user base. I want more people playing with me not less.
I mean, as much as I've love to just tear into your previous post for missing the point so unbelievably heavy, Pathfinder's creation was mostly 90% of "Don't screw over your magazine companies". And talking about twisting mechanics after 3E's existence was twisting mechanics from 2E to start with

Regardless though, the second round of orc stats has been widely preferred over the Volo's set and the people I play with said "Oh hey they used the better orc stats" when I told 'em Wildemount was using the Eberron stats. So.... That leads to more people playing the game.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
But if that's true of racial essentialism in D&D, then it's true of fantasy violence and demon-worship in the game as well. The presumed inability of players to distinguish between the fantasy world and the real world has been the justification for all of the moral crusades against the game.
But isn't "it" essentially monsters, and the purpose they serve in myth and stories? To defeat the monstrous 'other' that threatens the in-group. Remove that from a game like D&D and what you have left is unrecognizable.

The line between orcs, ogres, and ettins is pretty arbitrary. To me they're all monsters. You can present a rounded, even sympathetic depiction of Grendel and still make him a monster. But do away with the monster part entirely and we have something that no longer looks much like heroic fiction.
Grendel doesn't have to be born a monster for the story to be heroic fiction.

And I cna't speak for everyone, but my table has never had "defeat the monstrous 'other' that threatens the in-group" as part of the game. At all.
 

Nobody is asking you to do so. Honestly, in this discussion, nobody is asking you to do anything.

Honestly, nobody asking me to do anything, except to bear your attitude without loose my courtesy. You are right, there is time to leave the new way of telling stories to those who deserve it.

Farewell, sir.
 
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