D&D 5E Yes to factionalism. No to racism.

Oofta

Legend
This was also a thing in Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Mesoamerica, Ancient Italy, Ancient Celtic Europe, Ancient Japan, Ancient China…

Ancestor Worship, the Divine King or Queen of the City, the God of the Tribe, and genius loci are very very very common in so-called Polytheisms.

Usually it's more that there is the patron deity of the tribe but you recognise a few other deities too as important to offer sacrifices too, and when you're visiting another city, you offer sacrifice to their patron god as well, just in case.

The big shift for monotheisms like Atenism and Judaism were their refusals to offer sacrifices to or recognition of the other nations' deities (including the Egyptian and Roman God-Emperors, when it comes to the Hebrews).

So when you're portraying a Pelor faction, sure, recognise that the Raven Queen exists too (after all, you eventually will die), and maybe make a generous offering to her temple when you visit Nera or Gloomwrought, but otherwise you're not going to spend much effort on her, since she and Pelor aren't closely related. Erathis and Ioun, on the other hand, live in the same divine city as Pelor as co-rulers, so you may be more likely to have a small shrine to each of them off to the side in your Temple of Pelor.
Yeah, one of the things I have to keep reminding people is that clerics may be the chosen of a specific deity but unless you're in a very large city you are not generally going to find a temple dedicated to a specific god. Maybe a shrine or special dedication to a specific god here and there, but most lay priests are priests of the entire pantheon.

So since I use a pantheon loosely based on Norse mythology for humans someone may pray to Thor for rain, ask for a blessing from Uller when hunting and about to fire an arrow, sacrifice to Odin before battle. In a smaller village or town with multiple races (particularly on trade routes), there may even be nooks for elven or dwarven deities.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Yes, it really is. It's one of the most important problems to solve in the world and dismissive attitudes and judgemental condemnation get people killed.
I think you are conflating the real world with a game. It's the same old same old. Comic books are destroying our youth. Then it was TV and video games. Study after study has never shown any causation. People recognize the difference between games and reality.
 

I think you are conflating the real world with a game. It's the same old same old. Comic books are destroying our youth. Then it was TV and video games. Study after study has never shown any causation. People recognize the difference between games and reality.
Hell, it was famously D&D at one point, only instead of the current "it's going to turn everyone into a bigot" it was "it's going to turn everyone into a Satanist." It didn't then, and it won't now. I understand a certain degree of change to address instances where real life cultures and minorities have been stereotyped, demonized or marginalized (see the Vistani issue). That's only sensible, and I'd say it's good change without reservation. But going the distance further and saying that we must protect wholly fictional constructs in the same way we do real life cultures because of how it effects us is, in my opinion, stepping across the threshold to moral panic, and that never leads anywhere good.

If WotC wants to write out lengthy world building books filled with complex societies and nuanced cultures, by all means, I'm for it. There's no evidence that they are willing to do that, however, and stereotypes are a fine shortcut if you're not going to go into detail. It can be taken as given that stereotypes are just that, and if I'm running homebrew, I can add details as needed. But a starting point needs to evoke something to make me want to use it over other options, and I'll take colorful summaries and easy to use tools at the expense of painting with an overly broad brush over vague summaries that basically say "you figure it out" for everything. I'm certainly not opposed to making things more nuanced (see my post about alignment above), but it needs to be in service to making a better game, not in trying not to offend people who are specifically looking for things to be offended by. If I have people hare being offensive at the gaming table, I'm perfect capable of addressing that myself, either by correcting the behavior, or ensuring that either they or I am not at the table.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But going the distance further and saying that we must protect wholly fictional constructs in the same way we do real life cultures because of how it effects us is, in my opinion, stepping across the threshold to moral panic, and that never leads anywhere good.

Mod Note:
"Moral panic" is becoming yet another dogwhistle buzzword. I think we may need to have Morrus add it to inclusivity policy for terms that are used to dismiss, without addressing the actual issues.



in trying not to offend people who are specifically looking for things to be offended by.

And here, you tell us that you don't actually respect the opinions of those who don't agree with you. And that means you're done in the thread.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Hell, it was famously D&D at one point, only instead of the current "it's going to turn everyone into a bigot" it was "it's going to turn everyone into a Satanist." It didn't then, and it won't now. I understand a certain degree of change to address instances where real life cultures and minorities have been stereotyped, demonized or marginalized (see the Vistani issue). That's only sensible, and I'd say it's good change without reservation. But going the distance further and saying that we must protect wholly fictional constructs in the same way we do real life cultures because of how it effects us is, in my opinion, stepping across the threshold to moral panic, and that never leads anywhere good.

If WotC wants to write out lengthy world building books filled with complex societies and nuanced cultures, by all means, I'm for it. There's no evidence that they are willing to do that, however, and stereotypes are a fine shortcut if you're not going to go into detail. It can be taken as given that stereotypes are just that, and if I'm running homebrew, I can add details as needed. But a starting point needs to evoke something to make me want to use it over other options, and I'll take colorful summaries and easy to use tools at the expense of painting with an overly broad brush over vague summaries that basically say "you figure it out" for everything. I'm certainly not opposed to making things more nuanced (see my post about alignment above), but it needs to be in service to making a better game, not in trying not to offend people who are specifically looking for things to be offended by. If I have people hare being offensive at the gaming table, I'm perfect capable of addressing that myself, either by correcting the behavior, or ensuring that either they or I am not at the table.
It's not that D&D is going to "turn everyone into a bigot."

It's that discriminatory attitudes that carry even a vaneer of racism were wrong then and are wrong now, and are warding people away from the game. WotC wants to grow their attitude, so they're dropping a lot of the stuff that was non-inclusive.

"All dark skinned elves are evil?" Really Gygax? Oh, sorry, R.A. Salvatore's on the scene: "except for that one dark-skinned elf ranger friend; he's cool. Look at those shiny scimitars and his black panther! The rest of them though, they're monsters..."

…you see what I mean? This is why we have Udadrow, Loradrow, and Aevendrow now. And the "darkness of the drow" sidebar is going bye-bye. We need to break apart the harmful stereotypes.
 


I concur.

This is why I strongly disfavour humanoids who reproduce in a "normal" way, have free(ish) will, a child stage, non-combatants, and so on as block "Evil" factions. Because otherwise it's very hard to work around situations where the PCs are likely to come into contact with the non-combatants, question whether the humanoids really went to be there, and so on.

For block "Evil" factions I prefer beings who lack free will, or at the very least don't have non-combatants, kids and so on. Or factions where literally everyone has actively chosen to sign up to Evil (certain kinds of cult, for example).
5th ed appears to agree with you. Hence the interminable series of cultists in every 5e adventure.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
I went hunting for a couple of days, and it looks like during my absence something weird happened. At least I have a wild duck.

I certainly can get behind getting rid of fictional races being coded as real-world oppressed minorities, but just removing all the stereotypes about all the fictional groups is, honestly, real weird.

It's that discriminatory attitudes that carry even a vaneer of racism were wrong then and are wrong now, and are warding people away from the game. WotC wants to grow their attitude, so they're dropping a lot of the stuff that was non-inclusive.

"All dark skinned elves are evil?" Really Gygax? Oh, sorry, R.A. Salvatore's on the scene: "except for that one dark-skinned elf ranger friend; he's cool. Look at those shiny scimitars and his black panther! The rest of them though, they're monsters..."
Maybe I'm missing something, but are drow based on stereotypes about dark-skinned people, or are they just evil bastards who happen to have a dark skin?
 

Maybe I'm missing something, but are drow based on stereotypes about dark-skinned people, or are they just evil bastards who happen to have a dark skin?
Good point.
In Fantasy RPG land:

Skin colour should have no effect on whether you are the villain.
Gender should have no effect on whether you are the villain.
Your culture may have an effect on whether you are the villain.
Your religious belief may have an effect on whether you are the villain.
 

Another problem that I have with factions is the assumption that people choose to join them. Meh. Maybe, maybe not even if they were not conscripted.

Trying to stay away from real world politics too much, but most people who are religious follow the same religion they were raised in. If I was born in Minnesota and my parents were fans of the Vikings I'm probably going to be a fan of the Vikings if I follow (American) football. A Vikings fan may be a fan of an individual player on another team, but they're probably not going to suddenly become a fan of the Packers.

So if you look at religions as a valid faction the majority of people don't really choose, they're born into it. This is even more true in the day and age before modern communication. If you were born into a community that worshipped Pelor, you probably worship Pelor and all other gods aren't even a consideration*.

It's also true for what country you fight for, who you consider your enemy, standing on various issues such as personal rights versus societal rights, on and on. Even things like slavery. If you grew up in a culture where slavery was the norm, IMHO whether an individual fights to abolish slavery should not be a litmus test for whether someone is good or evil. Sadly, when I was growing up I was taught that many slaves were well cared for and relatively happy (small town, older teacher). If that was the only message I heard my entire life, my opinion on the subject may have been misguided.

But again, the game doesn't need to model real world morality. I don't think it should even try to do so as the base core assumption.

P.S. If you don't think sports fans are religious about what teams they follow I'm sure you could find some youtube videos that seem to prove otherwise. :)

*In the real world most polytheistic religions didn't really have a single god that they worshipped, although some like the Greeks had patron deities for their city. Worshipping a single deity out of many wasn't normally a thing.
The game is trying to model real world morality, because the simpler versions are no longer acceptable. This is why it's so hard to separate this stuff from real world politics. It's all blended together with the game now, because some people have demanded more nuance, and that means more complexity.
 

I went hunting for a couple of days, and it looks like during my absence something weird happened. At least I have a wild duck.

I certainly can get behind getting rid of fictional races being coded as real-world oppressed minorities, but just removing all the stereotypes about all the fictional groups is, honestly, real weird.


Maybe I'm missing something, but are drow based on stereotypes about dark-skinned people, or are they just evil bastards who happen to have a dark skin?
I always assumed it was that second thing, but apparently we were wrong.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I went hunting for a couple of days, and it looks like during my absence something weird happened. At least I have a wild duck.

I certainly can get behind getting rid of fictional races being coded as real-world oppressed minorities, but just removing all the stereotypes about all the fictional groups is, honestly, real weird.


Maybe I'm missing something, but are drow based on stereotypes about dark-skinned people, or are they just evil bastards who happen to have a dark skin?
I always assumed it was that second thing, but apparently we were wrong.
No, I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm not saying that Drow were purposefully created as racist caricatures.

They were based on Dark Alfar from Norse Mythology (or at least, the common misconception that Dark Alfar were somehow dark-skinned Elves rather than just another name for Dwarves/Dvergr, seeing as they're Elves of the dark mines below the earth). That misconception, even if innocent, was popularized probably in part due to systematic implicit racism, though. Maybe not intentionally, but in practice it's played out that way.

I'm saying that whole cloth "all dark skinned version of a thing are evil", even with exceptions (that prove the rule), are going to push away people and it's going to lend itself to racist comparisons and adaptations that drive away people who are otherwise potential consumers of the product. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

WotC want to be as inclusive as possible, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's where the market for the game has shifted. That means gutting out anything that even smell a whiff of potential racism. That's a good thing.
 
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Oofta

Legend
No, I'm not saying that Drow were purposefully created as racist caricatures. They were based on Dark Alfar from Norse Mythology (or at least, the common misconception that Dark Alfar were somehow dark-skinned Elves rather than just another name for Dwarves/Dvergr, seeing as they're Elves of the dark mines below the earth).

I'm saying that whole cloth "all dark skinned version of a thing are evil", even with exceptions (that prove the rule), are going to push away people and it's going to lend itself to racist comparisons and adaptations that drive away people who are otherwise potential consumers of the product.

WotC want to be as inclusive as possible, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's where the market for the game has shifted. That means gutting out anything that even smell a whiff of potential racism. That's a good thing.
The evil races, particularly drow and duergar being black (or gray) skinned and evil has always been a bit problematic. Then for some reason orcs started following a similar pattern with gray skin in the images.

I came up with a justification for it in my campaign, where the underdark's radiation is the cause. Even then their skin is dark gray, not black ... and I still hesitate to use drow very often.
 

The evil races, particularly drow and duergar being black (or gray) skinned and evil has always been a bit problematic. Then for some reason orcs started following a similar pattern with gray skin in the images.

I came up with a justification for it in my campaign, where the underdark's radiation is the cause. Even then their skin is dark gray, not black ... and I still hesitate to use drow very often.
See, I don't use Drow because I dislike elves in general and because my wife has a phobia about spiders. None of this other stuff has ever been a problem in any of my games. That being said, WotC isnt really fixing the problem by inventing new good Drow from literally nowhere and then not actually depicting them in their materials (just mentioning they exist won't satisfy the folks who are angry).
 

That being said, WotC isnt really fixing the problem by inventing new good Drow from literally nowhere and then not actually depicting them in their materials (just mentioning they exist won't satisfy the folks who are angry).
Whilst I concur that's a non-solution, doesn't it appear to be the first step to at least one potential solution?

First you need to create the thing, then you place it into the world and depict it in the materials. You don't necessarily need to do it all at once.
 

The evil races, particularly drow and duergar being black (or gray) skinned and evil has always been a bit problematic.
I still remember the moment when I realized Drow were "problematic" (even thought I didn't know the word then), not just the artists who depicted them (I'd already seen weird "Drow as brown-skinned" covers of adventures from the '80s, and put that down to "artists ignoring the brief"). It was when Jarlaxle was described in one of the early Drizzt books (which a friend had given me, not the same friend who gave me the Prism Pentad - I stopped talking to that guy!), and it just seemed obvious to me that he was basically intended to be dressed like a 1970s pimp (totally unlike any other character), and like, even if he wasn't, everything around the situation made it seem like he was, so it was still problematic. I was about 14-15. And then I thought about how they were dark-skinned and the "bad guys" and I started frowning a lot.
 

Oofta

Legend
I still remember the moment when I realized Drow were "problematic" (even thought I didn't know the word then), not just the artists who depicted them (I'd already seen weird "Drow as brown-skinned" covers of adventures from the '80s, and put that down to "artists ignoring the brief"). It was when Jarlaxle was described in one of the early Drizzt books (which a friend had given me, not the same friend who gave me the Prism Pentad - I stopped talking to that guy!), and it just seemed obvious to me that he was basically intended to be dressed like a 1970s pimp (totally unlike any other character), and like, even if he wasn't, everything around the situation made it seem like he was, so it was still problematic. I was about 14-15. And then I thought about how they were dark-skinned and the "bad guys" and I started frowning a lot.

Not to mention the whole scantily clad matriarchal dominatrix theme they had going. Admittedly 15 year old me probably thought it was awesome but even back then it was too much.
 

Not to mention the whole scantily clad matriarchal dominatrix theme they had going. Admittedly 15 year old me probably thought it was awesome but even back then it was too much.
I was definitely not complaining about that at that age but as I got older it definitely seemed sillier and sillier, and almost hard to believe that a grown-up had written this by the time I was in my twenties.
 

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