Throw aside your prejudices against orcs and dark elves in Dungeons & Dragons

Throw aside your prejudices against orcs and dark elves in Dungeons & Dragons Wizards of the Coast is revamping the way races are depicted in Dungeons & Dragons. Take orcs, for example. An evil homogeneous race of humanoid green-skinned barbarians no more, according to the blog post. Orcs have feelings and motivations. In fact, they are as complex and diverse as humans. It’s all part of a strategy to be more racially and culturally sensitive throughout the game system. “We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.” Wizards of the Coast is dedicated to more diverse hiring, and they’re working with consultants to vet their products and make sure they’re not inadvertently perpetuating harmful stereotypes. The studio is committing to correcting past misdeeds by updating long-time favorite publications. The studio acknowledged that the Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation adventures contained unfortunate depictions of people that have been corrected in upcoming reprints. Kobolds, of course, are still dog-faced little twerps.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2020/06/23/throw-aside-your-prejudices-against-orcs-and-dark-elves-in-dungeons-dragons/

Your mother is a dog-faced twerp.

Genocide is genocide…even when it’s orcs?

Fuck kobolds though. Eradicate the little yapping shits. Bugbears? Abomination. Destroy on sight. Ogres? Might as well try kissing one on the lips…

I think one of the problems is that real stereotypes become entwined with fictional races. Some races may be large and dumb and have a different skin tone, others may have hook noses and a tendency to cheat people out of money. Etc etc. But what do you do? People find this entertaining, and creating settings (or writing stories) without tropes is hard.

AoW3 is, in retrospect, a bit of a trailblazer in that it allowed Orcs to be Sorcerers etc.

And you could customize the colour and hair etc of your race to quite a degree.

PF goes further.

Like Ferengi = Jews sort of thing?

It’s a hard one to crack because some our prejudices run very deep. Our ambivalent relationship with money (we love it but we also kind of hate it, and envy/hate those who have more and also frequently denigrate them, saying “they got lucky” etc, and often put higher value on not having money, or associate money with lesser values, e.g. “he may be rich but I have integrity” etc) is a good example, as in any race in a fictional setting that gets denoted as “the rich race” will likely then get other things appended onto the label, e.g. the rich, stingy race (in the UK, it is a stereotype that Scottish people are very tight-fisted with their money, and that people from Liverpool are all thieves etc…)

Any race, in a more fantasy type setting here, that is associated with sneakiness is likely to then also have elements of darkness attached, e.g. dwell in the dark, dwell in caves, attack from the dark, be dark etc.

I don’t know that there is a way out of it entirely, other than to allow, within that particular fantasy setting, more of an ability for representatives of that race (or whatever term we are using to denote a group with a commonality) to go “against type.”

So you can very easily have an Elf (typically noble) Necromancer (typically ignoble.)

Maybe we can start calling Dark Elves something new, like Night Elves.

Maybe we should stop demonizing the ‘Dark’. Just because we can’t manage there due to our limited senses, doesn’t mean it’s not a perfectly valid place and settings to lead a life.

It’s perfectly valid for demons.

I honestly do not know which human ethnicities elves and dark elves are supposed to represent. Dwarves = Scottish or whatever. That’s straightforward. (I’m sure some awful fantasy novel coined “dark dwarves.”)

As a GM, my favorite kind of orc diversity is when the party plans on them all being melee and then they turn out to be competent archers with surprisingly good cover placement.

Maybe we should, but the dark is possibly the oldest prejudice we have (complete conjecture) as it limits us so thoroughly.

And many predators are nocturnal.

In D&D, it’s gray dwarves. Meet the Duergar: https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Duergar

The whole “a race only has one accent and one real world corresponding archetype” notion is a bit silly. The whole point of D&D is to create your character to be whatever you want it to be. Your adventure and your adventurers can easily stray from cliches.

One thing I enjoy is that the DM running our current Curse of Strahd campaign is already using an existing rewrite of the adventure that removes some problematic aspects and gives some characters (like the damsel in distress) more agency and a bigger role. Good on WotC for revisiting some of those titles to do the same.

“Culturally sensitive” towards a fictional race? Who are they sensitive towards.

Sure, if for the sake of the book/lore do not want to depict them as a one dimensional evil that must be exterminated by the hero, go for it, but if it is to protect someones feelings because “they/it/him/her/whomever” “identify” as an orc… then what the fuck are they smoking.

Thought in the roleplaying genre, things are more akin to a template and the gamemasters and players moulds the clay in any way they liked.

Orcs are tribal. So being sensitive to them is to be sensitive towards tribal peoples.

Dark Elves are chaotic evil white people in black face, and to be sensitive to them is to be sensitive to the cast of 30 Rock.

I think having positive representation of various human morphologies and identities goes a long way in fantasy.

There’s no reason vanilla humans need to all be Europeans, eh?

Oh come now, Ferengi are very clearly Republicans.

On table-top maybe. But in video games?

To come full circle I think a lot of the actors who played Ferengi were also Jewish.

Vulcans were maybe 1960s equivalents of “Orientals”.

Dunno.

I haven’t watched much Star trek :(

There are some damn good Star Trek episodes despite all this.

Kirk passed Spock off as a “Chinaman” in The City on the Edge of Forever.