Wizards Of The Coast Will Finally Address Racist Stereotypes In Dungeons And Dragons

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Illustration: Ben Oliver, Wizards of the Coast
Illustration: Ben Oliver, Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons and Dragons developers Wizards of the Coast will change how they describe and characterise fantasy races in future story modules. In a blog post last week, the publishers of the largest tabletop roleplaying game explained how some of their past characterisations have been racially insensitive and set forth a list of actions they’re taking to rectify this.

In the post, Wizards of the Coast explained that “some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow being two of the prime examples — have been characterised as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated.” Classic D&D settings describe orcs as “besital and savage,” bred for war and little else, while the elven drow are “utterly and irredeemably evil.” With their forthcoming adventuring guides, Wizards hopes to eliminate these absolutist and reductive descriptions.

To address these issues, Wizards is committed to improving how fantasy races will work in present books and upcoming releases. Highlights include working with people from specific marginalised communities to consult on depictions of their culture within D&D; issuing corrected reprints of books with harmful characterizations; working with sensitivity readers to ensure mistakes aren’t repeated; and expanding their hiring practices to ensure diverse talent on their team. The two latest books, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, feature new characterizations of drow and orcs presenting them “in a new light’’ to make them “just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples.”

Most notably, Wizards teased a new product that will provide “a way for a player to customise their character’s origin, including the option to change the ability score increases that come from being an elf, a dwarf, or one of D&D’s many other playable folk.” Wizards hasn’t yet offered an explanation of what that means. Playable races with increased or decreased stats depending on that race’s lore — e.g., orcs with more strength but lesser intelligence — have been a core component of the game’s character creation since inception. While the ability to freely customise stats might allow for more player character diversity, some players feel that the change could erase the distinction between and thus the uniqueness of playable races. However, as with just about everything else in D&D, the change is optional. Players and their Game Masters can decide if they want to implement these new ways to play or to keep things as they’ve been.

More people are playing D&D than ever before, so it’s important the worlds these new characters inhabit and the races they play as reflect the same depth of humanity as the players themselves. The depiction of orcs as inherently bloodthirsty, ignorant, and brutish creatures has long been a sore point for me — a Black person whose people all the aforementioned stereotypes have been applied to — so I appreciate Wizards’ attempt to remedy this decades old characterisation with a soft reboot that essentially says ‘you know what, people aren’t a monolith.’ And again, this is all optional — players can choose to use this or keep on keeping on rolling for initiative whenever a drow crosses their path. But any rework that makes characters like a himbo orcish bard more common and, better yet, mechanically and lore supported, is good with me.

Comments

  • Ah good, more grey.

    I would have thought it was racist to assume these traits are based on a particular IRL race???
    But hey, isn’t it racist to class people and assign attributes and skill by race?
    I think for the moral good of the world they should shut down their business and stop classifying people into made up races, or is there no money in that?

    All this bullshit posturing, virtue signalling and symbolic gesturing by companies whose sole purpose is to make money doesn’t do anything to fight racism, it’s just bullshit.
    I guess our next step is to petition to change the title of the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” because it inflicts a stereotype that Woody has been unfairly limited in his perceived abilities. FFS sometime light the match and burn this world to the ground.

    • It’s like you didn’t actually read the article THAT IS RIGHT THERE but instead just got triggered and pooped out something that even an alt right neckbeard would be embarrassed by.

      • Did you?
        Obviously you started out were a severe handicap on the intelligence roll.
        Also, are you aware that your first “go-to” when trying to defend your alt left views is to draw a stereotypical appearance of the person you’re attacking? Not their idea, not their points, but you straight away group and label them and attack so you don’t have to deal with them. Your weapon of choice is the same thing you’re apparently fighting against. Good work on being a textbook example of a hypocrite.

    • Humans will always generalise because they like certainty. They like looking at something (in this case, an orc) and being able to make assumptions about it. They don’t like being challenged about their assumptions at every turn because they don’t like uncertainty. They don’t like having to be super careful about what they say or think about something because they might be criticised for being racially insensitive. Wizards is only doing this because they don’t want to be criticised for being racially insensitive. I guarantee you that, despite all this lip-service and group-hugging, most people and most play groups will still assume that orcs are brutish thugs.

      These assumptions can make for interesting game play. For instance, we had a DM who confronted us with a group of goblin merchants. One of our number assumed that some of the merchandise was stolen, because of some innuendo deliberately put in as bait, and ended up killing a goblin merchant. The PC was then tried and found guilty of murder, and was hanged.

      TLDR: Wizards can make all the soothing sounds they want to placate the SJW crowd, but most D&D players will still have fun with (fantasy) racial stereotypes.

  • The only people I’ve seen conflating fictional species with real ethnic groups are journalists (and now WotSC apparently in response to an outrage mob that exists external to the D&D community). Many of whom are actually racist and have proved this by suggesting a comparison should OR could be made.

    HOW DO YOU PEOPLE CONFLATE A FICTIONAL RACE OF MATRIARCHAL LONG LIVED SPIDER WORSHIPPERS OR BLOODTHIRSTY TUSKED PSYCHOPATHS WITH REAL ETHNICITIES OR CULTURES?

    HOW RACIST ARE YOU?

    I think that the conflation only exists in the mind of deeply disturbed individuals who either see it themself or choose to believe that others see it without any evidence besides their personal fear of pervasive racism in geek culture.

    D&D has always been a diverse community because players would take ANYONE they could get to come and play. Whatever inane or actual discrimination that existed was quickly quashed by consensus as everyone wanted to play, at which point no one particularly cared that some kids wear a turban or have darker or lighter skin than the rest, or are richer or poorer socio-economically. We were all equal in our exploration of a fiction where we could escape.

    Through that experience deep bonds were created and maintained between players of different ethnicities and cultures. Never once has there been a suggestion in any of the groups I geek out with that ANY of the fictional races reflect real world cultures. The only friction was over who rolled which dice score, or rule interpretations by the GM.

    The D&D universe is and should remain fantastic and fictional, and thus should not be required to reflect our world. As soon as it does, that unique fantasy becomes mundane and no longer represents a place to escape to, but rather a reflection of what we are all trying to escape from.

    Judgement.

    Any suggestion that outrage culture and shaming of the fiction and fandom is required should be immediately and wholly slapped down by Wizards of the Sword Coast and by the community.

    If not, this is going to kill the experience of fantasy RP, and as such is incredibly sad.

    Keep fiction solidly in the realm of fiction and make damn sure that people don’t conflate it with reality.

    Stop the crazy. Let fiction remain fiction.

    Otherwise, we might as well kill D&D right now and all install SIMS 3.

    • You know that those two races were written to be that way by a man, right? That they didn’t just pop into existence from nowhere?

  • I honestly can’t tell if this is satire or not. While we’re at it, let’s clean up the other elephant in the room, Dwarves and Elves. The racism displayed by these two races is disgusting and highly offensive. Tolkien should be ashamed of himself and Games Workshop need to clean up their act too. Free the Snotlings. They’ve lived far too long under the oppressive fist of the Orcs. Equal rights for the Xeno! Welcome the heretic, accept the Mutant, tolerate the unclean.

    • It’s almost as if we are punishing people for basing anything imaginary on anything from real life. Are these SJWs suggesting that all fantasy races should be polymorphic multi-coloured tentacle creatures? Here’s an interesting conundrum – what form would a race of shapechangers take if they were the sole lifeform in the world? Probably a colourless, shapeless blob, much like the future of fantasy if these whinging morons keep having their way with it.

  • Interesting article, I can’t say I agree with much of it or will be using said rules as I prefer the original stylings, but an interesting read none the less to see other perspectives.

  • It was always an option, as usual it is up the the GM, but it’s a limitless potential game, can play a half-Orc, half-Drow if you want, if the GM agrees. This feels like pandering more than anything, it’s a business decision from Hasbro Corp.

  • This is all sorts of fuckin’ dumb. Where do you even start?
    If you look at orcs and think “these ugly dumb brutes are based on black/indigenous people” you’re racist – no ifs and buts – even if you’re following it with “so it needs to be changed as it’s offensive”.
    There is nothing wrong with orcs have high Str low Int. Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity and all that are just numbers with names. D&D is a game, and having high one thing for low other thing is balance. Balance is important unless you’re playing the most boring race in a fantasy game – humans – in which case you get a flat +1 to everything for some reasons.
    It’s a little harder to justify drow with their dark skin as usually being evil, but I’ve never thought of drow and thought BLACKS (as in those of African descent). Someone who is racist probably would, but then none of these changes to D&D is going to stop someone racist from being racist.

    It’s all moot anyway. People have been playing good drow, intelligent orcs and every other subversion for years. D&D is ultimately made by the players (well more so the poor DMs, usually forever stuck in their roles).

    And I guess on that last paragraph, there is literally nothing stopping black people from playing the game as a black person or a black dwarf/gnome/etc. It’s all imaginary anyway, so how has this ever been an issue?

    • I just noticed up/down votes have been removed from comments, disappointing that perspective has been removed but that was a great comment so just pretend this is an upvote.

    • @john_stalvern Consider my comment a like too. Not sure why there’s no down or up votes but can comment at least.

      @drumrbaxj Nice troll there.

  • Yay, more thought policing. Quite literally given what D&D is.

    All due to people being offended because they found something racist and never stopped to think, “Wait… Why do I personally constantly see links between fictional creatures and certain human races? Could it be that I’m the biggest racist here?”

    I’ve never once looked at a fucking orc, goblin or whatever and thought “They’re just like black people…” or anything even remotely similar.

    • @Kasterix

      This. Still one good thing about an rpg is that with DM and other player approval, you can make the world you like so the wierdos who see things to be offended about where they don’t exist can’t change that at least.

  • Fucking hell, if you’re seeing similarities between Orc’s and black people than that’s a you problem, Orc’s are not just another race they’re completely different species it’s like comparing dogs and cats.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but humans aren’t all white in DnD are they?

    I’ve never played a game where race even came up, no one ever said they were a white/black human, it was just human.

    • I can already see your table of players from that comment and…..yup. This infantile comment makes total sense.

  • If you think Orcs are a reference to black people you are the racist one.

    These changes are moronic and nothing but a surrender to the woke crowd.

  • I shouldn’t be surprised by these comments. Of course Kotaku’s usual crowd of commenters are incapable of nuance or seeing anything from a different perspective.

    This is a good move and has already made a couple of my younger players feel more included in their games.

    • we are all easily capable of seeing your shallow perspective, trying to disguise this race baiting nonsense as nuance betrays your own narcissism. Your conclusions are not the result of 500IQ deep thinking mate it’s a result of you being anchored in an adjacent reality where racists and racism is everywhere, your ability to imagine racism then twist and ignore the facts to suit your fevered dream is toxic.

      Your trying to sell us the idea that you and a tiny minority of others in the D&D scene have spotted this glaringly obvious racist caricature of black people, but at the same time as being so obvious nobody has spotted it in the last 50 years and the majority of people here in the comments and in the D&D community also tell you your delusional. Because you and these other few people are just so rediculously intelligent we just can’t understand the depth of your genius.

      more likely is given that the majority of people have refuted your assertions many times and you have been unable to persuade people u are right, you are probably wrong.

      this whole thing is an ego trip where you tell us all how much of a great person u are for standing up to racism and also your so intelligent that the rest of us plebs aren’t racists we are just too stupid to see what you see.

      don’t bother replying whatever flavour of gas lighting bullshit you come up with i will not be checking back this is for everyone else to watch you get destroyed and for personal therapy, i can’t stop u and WOTC shitting up my hobbies but i can at least show others how horrible u are.

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