DnD addresses racism.

Gethsemani

Hardcore Feminazi
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
154
77
33
Country
Sweden
Now, I don't know a whole lot about the marketing side of D&D, but I would guess that, unless they're all totally incompetent, whoever is running that marketing has a better idea of who is buying their products and why than you do. That's not an insult, I don't know who is buying D&D (although I can make an educated guess based on statistics and statements given out by WotC) but I'm merely questioning your ability to make that determination.
I think it deserves to be noted that pretty much every other RPG fanbase out there considers D&D the kiddie pool. The stereotype is that it is what pre-teens and adolescent boys plays for power fantasy and that the 'true' roleplayers among them will advance to a 'proper RPG'. Eacaraxe's statement is just an unusually sophisticated way of saying that D&D is trash that true roleplayers will never touch.

D&D to me feels like Iron Maiden or Metallica to metal fans. They are both incredibly popular in deep layers of society and there's no real telling who does or doesn't listen to them, it could be your accountant or your teenage neighbor or that guy with the Amon Amarth shirt. 'True' metal fans will invariably deride them both for being too weak, too derivative, too mainstream and the kind of music that posers listen to. True metal fans listen to Manowar/Marduk/Creeping Flesh/*insert whichever metalband here*. D&D is so large that it dwarfs the rest of the entire RPG industry and a large part of this is probably that it is easy to pick up and play for beginners and that it is an extremely well established brand after nearly 50 years of existence.

I don't think Big Bang Theory or Stranger Things are actually positive depictions of D&D, they both depict it as an arcane, exclusionary full of obsessives and hostile gatekeepers. It's basically one step off Mazes and Monsters (or Riverdale, a show which also definately didn't get people into D&D).
BBT is decidedly pretty hostile towards geek in general, seeing as how most jokes are about how zany and weird the main cast are, especially when they play games of some kind (adults take complex games way too seriously, cue the laugh track!). ST sort of swerves I feel, in that the first season is a very tender look at these bullied guys and their escapism in the form of D&D, which even allows them to keep cool in regards to a monster from another dimension when the grown ups freak out. The first season actually treats the guys playing D&D as a sort of positive, a way for them to bond and later to conceptualize the stuff they go through. The second season is peppered with frequent jokes about how the guys are totally geeks who can't function in reality without framing it all as them being a real world D&D party and has the nasty gatekeeping stuff that you talk about as integral to the plot. It also has Dustin as this insane geek who can't even shake his nerdy obsession in a life or death situation played for laughs when he keeps talking about demo-dogs in an otherwise serious scene.
 

09philj

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
114
46
33
I think it deserves to be noted that pretty much every other RPG fanbase out there considers D&D the kiddie pool. The stereotype is that it is what pre-teens and adolescent boys plays for power fantasy and that the 'true' roleplayers among them will advance to a 'proper RPG'. Eacaraxe's statement is just an unusually sophisticated way of saying that D&D is trash that true roleplayers will never touch.
DnD isn't completely without merit, as it is a fairly well rounded system for swords and sorcery, but I think there are very few experienced RPG players who don't rewrite at least some of the rules. Frankly, the same can be said for most RPGs. Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary is the best version of VtM by a considerable distance, but my group has still tweaked a lot of the rules, and shoved in some systems salvage from V5 as well.
 

Gethsemani

Hardcore Feminazi
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
154
77
33
Country
Sweden
DnD isn't completely without merit, as it is a fairly well rounded system for swords and sorcery, but I think there are very few experienced RPG players who don't rewrite at least some of the rules. Frankly, the same can be said for most RPGs. Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary is the best version of VtM by a considerable distance, but my group has still tweaked a lot of the rules, and shoved in some systems salvage from V5 as well.
I think there's a lot of merit to D&D, if nothing else it is a game system that has kept up with the times and kept its core rules relevant. That coupled with its easy "pick up and play"-approach to RP makes it an excellent introduction game and it scales really well in complexity. If you want to hog down on rules you just get a few splats and can twink out to your heart's desire, if you just want to smash goblins and pretend to be Not-Conan the Barbarian while not bothering to much with the rules you can do that.

To bash D&D for being generic or too broad or trying to appeal to too many people to me just feels like the arbitrary gatekeeping that has made my relation to RPing outside of my own group so conflicted. If we can draw more people, even those that aren't Tolkien-o-holics or super geeks to begin with, into our hobby that is a good thing, right? Yet I way too often hear that it isn't good that 'they' (usually jocks, girls, famous people etc.) share the hobby with us or that it is not real RPing or just posing or whatever.
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
559
144
48
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
For one, there's a hierarchy of human races.

"High men", like the Numenoreans and their descendent, are distinct from the lesser races of men. They live longer, they are more noble and wise, they are taller and more beautiful. Over time, as the blood of Numenor is diluted by race-mixing or corruption, these qualities diminish in most of the population, but are preserved in the royal lines of Gondor and Arnor, which is why Aragorn is the best human who lives for 200 years and is the only person fit to be king.

Conversely, the people of Far Harad have black skin and are described as "half-trolls".

I'm making this sound overtly racist again, aren't I? It's not that clear cut. The Numenoreans themselves are kind of a cautionary tale about hubris, they're people whose knowledge and power outstripped their goodness. The fact that they were slavers and colonisers who dominated much of the world and subjugated lesser races is not depicted in a wholly positive light.

There's also strong analogy with both the myth of Atlantis (in fact, it's kind of a literal retelling of thay myth), and the the way ancient Rome was narrativized by Victorian and early 20th century historians as a great society that declined after falling into decadence and moral weakness. However, they're still overtly depicted as racially superior, and their descendents are depicted as having an inherent right to rule on the basis of that racial superiority. It's still kind of problematic.
I'm doing a block quote rather than addressing these points in order necessarily. So, that being said:

For starters, "hierarchy" usually involves more than two groups. In LotR, there's the Dunadain/Numenoreans, who are blessed with longer lifespans (among other things), and...pretty much everyone else. You could say that the Dunlandings are 'lesser' than, say, Gondor, in that the former don't live in anything as fancy as Minas Tirith, but biologically, they're the same. And the only reason the Dunadain are the way they are is because they were rewarded with such things for their service in defeating Morgoth. And as you yourself point out, the Numenoreans let their pride get the best of them, and their civilization ends up being destroyed. Furthermore, their imperial actions against the people of the East come back to bite them when the Easterlings go all imperial against Gondor as well.

As for the half-trolls...fun fact, I looked up their wiki entry, and yikes. Small wonder that every spin-off work listed establishes that the half-trolls are artificial creations and not actually human. But that said, I'm not sure what the point is here, unless you're saying they belong lower in a hierarchy. If so, disagree - trolls lack in some areas (e.g. intelligence), and are supreme in others (e.g. strength). Half-trolls may be based on stereotypes, the 'proper' trolls aren't.

Also, Aragorn. I think this is conflating stuff. He's the king of Gondor, not of all Men. He's the last of Isilidur's line - blood linneage is pretty common in monarchies across cultures, and he becomes king of his own people. If the argument is "Aragorn should rule Rohan, because Aragorn's a 'better' human than anyone of the House of Eorl, then maybe, but that isn't what happens. Also, that doesn't really sync with the themes of the work. LotR has a lot of skepticism towards power. It's telling that a hobbit like Frodo, a simple, humble being, is the person who can bear the One Ring and not be corrupted. Gandalf fears being corrupted and refuses to take it. Galadriel struggles to resist. Saruman is the mightiest Istari, but he gets corrupted by Sauron, and tellingly, it's to Gandalf that Cirdan gives his ring to. Denethor strives to match Sauron's tactics with his own palantir, but this backfires on him. In the Shire, "changes" are made, but the hobbits want to go back to their simple lives. Over and over in the work, there's the sub-text of power corrupting. So if Tolkein's trying to suggest that Aragorn is fit to rule simply because of his genes, then it's an idea that's out of sync with the rest of the work. It's also why I think the Jackson films do this theme better because Aragorn's reluctance to embrace his birthright makes for a better character arc, and he doesn't fully embrace it until about the last tenth of the final film (I'd say the exact moment is when, in the extended edition, he uses the palantir to confront Sauron).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Specter Von Baren

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
May 28, 2020
282
200
48
Country
United States
Why is it wrong that they've decided to go further?
That's a question of consumer faith. That to me strikes to whether you believe WotC did a good job making a holistic, coherent game of 3rd-5th editions, have done a good job maintaining quality of worldbuilding and lore, preserved good faith with customers, and can really be trusted to do this well. To me, that's a rather clear "no" which is precisely why I say the best-case scenario is reprint of content that already exists, in some cases for 20 years or more.

...they have been make alignment less relevant since 4E to the point that it practically does nothing in 5E, if anything if they are stepping away from alignment (Which they have been for over a decade)...
My read on this based on experience with games and other systems, is WotC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They're dealing with game settings in which divine right and natural law are objectively real phenomena, but they're trying to navigate the treacherous waters of postmodern society which rejects the metaphysical assumptions upon which these high fantasy game worlds are built, and as a company lack the talent and creative freedom (like it or not WotC is still a Hasbro subsidy which means there are shareholders to appease) to reconcile these two things. The 4th edition alignment debacle being a key piece of evidence for their creative listlessness.

I don't envy their position, but on the other hand much like White Wolf's VtM5 fiasco, I won't shed tears when the ship inevitably runs aground.

I see, so you're telling me that these people, who don't play D&D and know it only from media know specifically what a Yuan-Ti and a Vistani are, in which adventure modules (The least consumed books, because books about lore and about mechanics sell more for obvious reasons) and that their portrayals in such books could be considered racially insensitive towards Romani and Latinos respectively and specifically told WotC to change that, despite there being no outrage campaigns about this?
Well, yeah. Because the modus operandi is to cherry pick and problematize, share the problematized elements (and only the problematic elements) virally, and use that cherry picked body of "evidence" which rarely comprises more problematic but less obvious elements, as cause celebre to launch the moral panic. It's not as if the Curse of Strahd module wasn't an exceptionally highly-advertised module, on the specific selling points of hinting at the return of Ravenloft after two editions' worth of out-sourcing and lack of publication, and the triumphant return of Tracy Hickman to the D&D fold. Or anything.

Where are the drums of war for Arabic stereotypes in Dark Sun, or for the root-to-stem orientalism of the Gith? The former being particularly noteworthy, as Dark Sun was a revived setting for 4th edition, and the latter being equally so as Gith are a mainstay generally regardless of setting given their multiplanar nature.

I don't think Big Bang Theory or Stranger Things are actually positive depictions of D&D, they both depict it as an arcane, exclusionary full of obsessives and hostile gatekeepers.
You won't find a defender of Big Bang Theory or how it depicts geek culture in me. That won't stop me from pointing out how it capitalizes and perpetuates "geek chic" shit, and geek consumer culture. That said, Stranger Things is a predominantly coming-of-age story about adolescents, emotionally struggling with the painful realization friends and social groups drift apart and life goes on, in line with its '80s roots. Saying it's exemplary of "hostile gatekeeping" is reductive and uncharitable to the extreme, and if one can't view how D&D is used as a narrative tool through that lens, they're not critically examining the show but rather looking for what you want to see.

I think it deserves to be noted that pretty much every other RPG fanbase out there considers D&D the kiddie pool. The stereotype is that it is what pre-teens and adolescent boys plays for power fantasy and that the 'true' roleplayers among them will advance to a 'proper RPG'. Eacaraxe's statement is just an unusually sophisticated way of saying that D&D is trash that true roleplayers will never touch.
To a certain extent that is and isn't true. D&D still hasn't evolved far beyond its tabletop wargaming roots, and the overbearing push to incorporate licensed products (specifically the D&D Minis line, replete with maps and terrain) limits its growth potential. Classes are still predominantly designed around combat role, combat is the near-exclusive focus of game design and rules creation, and the narrative and social interaction toolkit remains woefully under-developed to this day. It remains largely the purview of "house rule it, bro" and "just because the game mechanics are all about murderhobo'ing doesn't mean you can't tell a good story with it, bro".
 
  • Like
Reactions: Specter Von Baren

Agema

Ph'nglui mglw'nafn Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
925
471
68
To a certain extent that is and isn't true. D&D still hasn't evolved far beyond its tabletop wargaming roots, and the overbearing push to incorporate licensed products (specifically the D&D Minis line, replete with maps and terrain) limits its growth potential. Classes are still predominantly designed around combat role, combat is the near-exclusive focus of game design and rules creation, and the narrative and social interaction toolkit remains woefully under-developed to this day. It remains largely the purview of "house rule it, bro" and "just because the game mechanics are all about murderhobo'ing doesn't mean you can't tell a good story with it, bro".
I recently started roleplaying again after a long break, with two total newcomers and two who had only experienced D&D. I don't like D&D, simply because it's basically a tactical wargame manual with a few extra add-ons. Classes have all these special skills, and they're basically all ways of killing things. All the utility of magic in the world, and it seems hardly anyone has thought of things to do with it except kill things.

In the end, I persuaded the D&D experienced to use a heavy-modified form of D&D - enough to keep them on relatively familar ground, but modified enough that dice rolls were for more than smiting stuff.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Satinavian

09philj

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
114
46
33
I recently started roleplaying again after a long break, with two total newcomers and two who had only experienced D&D. I don't like D&D, simply because it's basically a tactical wargame manual with a few extra add-ons. Classes have all these special skills, and they're basically all ways of killing things. All the utility of magic in the world, and it seems hardly anyone has thought of things to do with it except kill things.

In the end, I persuaded the D&D experienced to use a heavy-modified form of D&D - enough to keep them on relatively familiar ground, but modified enough that dice rolls were for more than smiting stuff.
The most striking thing about playing my first few sessions of VtM was how much I could do that wasn't combat compared to DnD, and yet my socially and mentally focused Giovanni still felt far more lethal than my DnD fighter ever did. In a more recent DnD based campaign I did (sexed up with a fan made Norse splatbook), my character was a Warlock with the widely considered to be broken invocations to enhance arcane bolt, and combat still felt like I was vaguely flailing in the direction of enemies and occasionally lightly grazing them. I got far more satisfying use out of the non-combat spells I'd taken, particularly the fight I wrapped up quickly by closing a portal to Hel with Dispel Magic.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
May 28, 2020
282
200
48
Country
United States
The most striking thing about playing my first few sessions of VtM was how much I could do that wasn't combat compared to DnD, and yet my socially and mentally focused Giovanni still felt far more lethal than my DnD fighter ever did. In a more recent DnD based campaign I did (sexed up with a fan made Norse splatbook), my character was a Warlock with the widely considered to be broken invocations to enhance arcane bolt, and combat still felt like I was vaguely flailing in the direction of enemies and occasionally lightly grazing them. I got far more satisfying use out of the non-combat spells I'd taken, particularly the fight I wrapped up quickly by closing a portal to Hel with Dispel Magic.
The irony about VtM is one of the issues that's plagued it since its inception, is the combat system is really under-baked and so heavily biased towards attacking, damage, and action economy, its inherent imbalances often come full circle and actually create a very twisted form of anti-balance. Save discipline powers that are inherently encounter-defeating like Majesty, Vanish from the Mind's Eye, and basically any Obtenebration power*, the real problem comes in which clans have what disciplines; having Fortitude sparing house rules means that clan is effectively down a discipline, while something like Auspex, Obfuscate, or Celerity in-clan is worth its weight in gold.

You can't really screw up a Brujah, but there's a reason veterans with the game mechanics stay away from them except for funsies, and go with Torries, Assamites, or Nosferatu instead.

[* One of the best litmus tests for telling who knows what about VtM game mechanics is to ask them what the most powerful combat discipline in the entire game is. If they don't say Obtenebration, they likely don't have much expertise and their opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.]

That said, one aspect of playing a caster in D&D from 3rd edition on is the progressive nerfing of spell utility. In 2nd edition, wizards were at the peak of their comparative power, but that was counter-balanced by having to know the class and its spell list inside out, and having to dedicate a goodly number of spells per day to matrices, sequencers, triggers, and anti-magic. Which in turn meant the casters were off doing their own thing in combat until one side ran out of dueling spells, at which point they were free to drop the encounter-defeaters and get on with it. Meta-magic got gutted and replaced with that stupid feat system in 3rd, and every edition since has seen a progressive reduction in not just that level of utility, but in general-purpose spells to boot.

Sorcerers can be and always have been fun, when built right, but warlocks really display the shifting priorities in designing casters away from utility and towards "blasting". Limiting the number of spells and spell interactions deemed "encounter-defeating" for the sake of game balance, necessarily limits players' ability to resolve encounters creatively and without combat. That's not limited to spell casters, either.
 

Terminal Blue

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 20, 2020
110
76
33
Country
United Kingdom
For starters, "hierarchy" usually involves more than two groups.
There's a lot more groups. I chose to focus on the "high men"/"lesser men" division because it's kind of obvious, but the actual genealogy of human races in middle earth is kind of ridiculous, and there are clear differences between them in terms of both in terms of how Tolkien views the quality of their appearance and in terms of their spirit, with white people generally being "noble" in spirit and siding with good, while non-white people.. well..

Also, that doesn't really sync with the themes of the work. LotR has a lot of skepticism towards power. It's telling that a hobbit like Frodo, a simple, humble being, is the person who can bear the One Ring and not be corrupted.
I think what you're looking at is a paradox. Tolkien's idea of a perfect society does seem to be the shire, with its happy peasants living in pastoral bliss with seemingly no government or authority. However, Tolkien also really loves monarchy. The need for a rightful monarchy is also a common theme, and Tolkien's real life politics were defined by the monarchy. Again, it makes sense if you understand that Tolkien is essentially a British Tory. To him, monarchy is an essentially benign institution. The idea of a distant king who theoretically rules you but doesn't interfere in your life is is seen as preferable to a democratic government. Everyone should be as free as possible, but they also know their place.

Tolkien's beliefs have been described as conservative anarchism or anarcho-monarchism, and like all reactionary anarchism it's kind of a mess. The reality is that, while feudal societies often did leave peasants to their own devices, this was more due to the general weakness and arbitrariness of state power. Real feudalism was in no way benevolent or conducive to human freedom or happiness, and Tolkien's idea of monarchy is absurd.

But hey, it's fantasy.

IOne of the best litmus tests for telling who knows what about VtM game mechanics is to ask them what the most powerful combat discipline in the entire game is. If they don't say Obtenebration, they likely don't have much expertise and their opinion should be taken with a grain of salt
Obtenebration was built as an NPC discipline and is clearly designed to let a powerful antagonist challenge a party. It's also very badly written with a lot of grey area as to how it works. Honestly, the same is true of a lot of the disciplines of previously-NPC-only clans, obtenebration just happens to be the worst offender.
 
Last edited:

09philj

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
114
46
33
It's kind of illustrative of two very different approaches to RPG design. At one end, you've got DnD, which gives you some fairly balanced but bland mechanics and assumes that the GM will be able to do something interesting with them. In direct contrast, V:TM gives you a load of stuff that could make for an interesting story, but could also quite quickly lead to a plot derailment, and just trusts the GM to make it work.
 

Kae

Just a psychedelic cat
Legacy
May 8, 2020
192
47
33
Somewhere in México
Country
México
That's a question of consumer faith. That to me strikes to whether you believe WotC did a good job making a holistic, coherent game of 3rd-5th editions, have done a good job maintaining quality of worldbuilding and lore, preserved good faith with customers, and can really be trusted to do this well. To me, that's a rather clear "no" which is precisely why I say the best-case scenario is reprint of content that already exists, in some cases for 20 years or more.
So, you haven't liked the way it's been managed for a long time?
That's fair I can respect that, I never really played advanced outside of video-games so I'm not like hardcore enough to know a lot about that time-period in D&D history, I do wish they would reprint some of the older books, I know some of them are print-on-demand in drive-thru-RPG and that they definitely have a huge amount of old school books available at least in PDF format but I can understand the desire to be able to pick them up new on a brick and mortar store.


My read on this based on experience with games and other systems, is WotC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They're dealing with game settings in which divine right and natural law are objectively real phenomena, but they're trying to navigate the treacherous waters of postmodern society which rejects the metaphysical assumptions upon which these high fantasy game worlds are built, and as a company lack the talent and creative freedom (like it or not WotC is still a Hasbro subsidy which means there are shareholders to appease) to reconcile these two things. The 4th edition alignment debacle being a key piece of evidence for their creative listlessness.

I don't envy their position, but on the other hand much like White Wolf's VtM5 fiasco, I won't shed tears when the ship inevitably runs aground.
While I can agree with the distaste for the way it has been handled, I do feel old-school D&D fans greatly over-estimate the value of the alignment system, in reality it's never been particularly useful and even with the cosmic powers and influences of good and evil, order and chaos, there have been a lot of good stories that deal with these elements without having a silly alignment grid, so I fail to see how getting rid of it will change everything, I personally think it's all up to how it's written rather than alignments contributing anything.



Well, yeah. Because the modus operandi is to cherry pick and problematize, share the problematized elements (and only the problematic elements) virally, and use that cherry picked body of "evidence" which rarely comprises more problematic but less obvious elements, as cause celebre to launch the moral panic. It's not as if the Curse of Strahd module wasn't an exceptionally highly-advertised module, on the specific selling points of hinting at the return of Ravenloft after two editions' worth of out-sourcing and lack of publication, and the triumphant return of Tracy Hickman to the D&D fold. Or anything.
That didn't happen though, there was no hashtag, no outrage campaign, no Romani accusing the game of being racist, no nothing.
As far as I can tell at most they might have received a few e-mails but there's no trace of any sort of outrage regarding this issue.


Where are the drums of war for Arabic stereotypes in Dark Sun, or for the root-to-stem orientalism of the Gith? The former being particularly noteworthy, as Dark Sun was a revived setting for 4th edition, and the latter being equally so as Gith are a mainstay generally regardless of setting given their multiplanar nature.
Well the changes are exclusive to 5E, they aren't planning on meddling with older books, also while I get what you're trying to say, there was no outrage campaign as far as I can tell, so they would need to address that on their own just like they did with Tomb of Annihilation and Curse of Strahd, you're complaining about something that as far as I can tell from looking stuff up, just plain didn't happen, if you're upset about changes that's fine, that's understandable and a fair criticism, but what's the point in blaming it on something that didn't happen?


To a certain extent that is and isn't true. D&D still hasn't evolved far beyond its tabletop wargaming roots, and the overbearing push to incorporate licensed products (specifically the D&D Minis line, replete with maps and terrain) limits its growth potential. Classes are still predominantly designed around combat role, combat is the near-exclusive focus of game design and rules creation, and the narrative and social interaction toolkit remains woefully under-developed to this day. It remains largely the purview of "house rule it, bro" and "just because the game mechanics are all about murderhobo'ing doesn't mean you can't tell a good story with it, bro".
Well, that's something I definitely agree with, though the fact that I'm not D&D's greatest fan isn't exactly a secret, in fact I'm pretty sure all my friends know it because I always trying to convince them to play something else.

But I feel like even as a combat focused RPG it kinda fails, like the combat system in 5E is a bit too simple, you have to little class choice and so on, so like if combat isn't all that great, character customization isn't super-deep either and non-combat scenarios aren't particularly well-supported by the system, it just becomes kinda boring to play in long campaigns.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
May 28, 2020
282
200
48
Country
United States
Obtenebration was built as an NPC discipline and is clearly designed to let a powerful antagonist challenge a party. It's also very badly written with a lot of grey area as to how it works. Honestly, the same is true of a lot of the disciplines of previously-NPC-only clans, obtenebration just happens to be the worst offender.
Mostly, it was a product of White Wolf's "we need new disciplines for every clan and bloodline, but can't think of enough unique powers to give them, so we'll just re-flavor Protean" period. Conceptually the discipline is good and has really fun powers, it's just that the second and third levels have a nasty tendency to just utterly break encounters.

I still loves me some Lasombra, though. Most fun clan in the game in my opinion, Obtenebration or not.

That's fair I can respect that, I never really played advanced outside of video-games so I'm not like hardcore enough to know a lot about that time-period in D&D history, I do wish they would reprint some of the older books, I know some of them are print-on-demand in drive-thru-RPG and that they definitely have a huge amount of old school books available at least in PDF format but I can understand the desire to be able to pick them up new on a brick and mortar store.
Realistically that's all they need to do, just make an anthology lore text with updated formatting. DotU really was one of their better "splat" books, because it just made drow cool and gave the race more depth and complexity than most of the game's prominent races.

While I can agree with the distaste for the way it has been handled, I do feel old-school D&D fans greatly over-estimate the value of the alignment system...
If I had it my way I'd make it more similar to WoD's archetype system. Keep it a dual-category system reflective of a character's views on society (which is what law-chaos reflects) and their personal values (good-evil), but use a keyword system not necessarily reflective of a linear axis but rather a spectrum with room for interpretation, largely absent connotation.

Then you could granularize concepts of "good" or "evil", and work it into classes and deities with alignment restrictions by excluding keywords. So for example, a paladin in service to Torm might have the alignment keywords "fair" or "altruist", but perhaps not "utilitarian", whereas a cleric in service to Hathor may allow "utilitarian" or "altruist" but not "fair".

That didn't happen though, there was no hashtag, no outrage campaign, no Romani accusing the game of being racist, no nothing.
As far as I can tell at most they might have received a few e-mails but there's no trace of any sort of outrage regarding this issue.
You might not be visiting the right venues for such discussion. This is all the rage and has been for years on sites like RPG.net's forums, which any more is basically ResetERA for tabletop gaming, and Tumblr, which is of course Tumblr.

But the phenomenon which I'm pointing out is the lack of such broad-based criticism. D&D is a veritable ocean of content to problematize, and doesn't exist within the context of a singular edition or book release. Rather what we see is laser-targeted criticism of whatever is the current trend, or happens to be the most publicized at that current point in time. I guarantee you if the Rrakkma module had gotten the publicity or was as high-profile as Curse of Strahd, or had been a more popular AL module, we wouldn't be talking about the Vistani, Drow, or especially the Yuan-ti right now, we'd be talking about the Gith.

Because the root controversy doesn't stem from a holistic, informed perspective of the game and its breadth of content, it's trend-chasing.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Specter Von Baren

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
559
144
48
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
There's a lot more groups. I chose to focus on the "high men"/"lesser men" division because it's kind of obvious, but the actual genealogy of human races in middle earth is kind of ridiculous, and there are clear differences between them in terms of both in terms of how Tolkien views the quality of their appearance and in terms of their spirit, with white people generally being "noble" in spirit and siding with good, while non-white people.. well..
I know there's a lot of groups of humans in the setting, but I don't recall there being any hierarchy between them. Not in any sense aside from culture.

Now if you're talking about how the "good" races of Men in the setting tend to take inspiration from European cultures (e.g. the Rohirrim), and the "bad" races of Men tend to take inspiration from Asian/African/Arabic cultures (Easterlings, Variags, Haradrim), then yeah, okay, that's a reasonable observation. But the setting makes it clear that there's nothing inherently evil about the people here. It's a combination of them being under the influence of Sauron/Morgoth, and time is taken to reflect on how war has made them enemies (e.g. Sam looking at the Haradrim body, or in the films, LotR), and again, the 'good' humans aren't squeaky clean either. The Numenoreans became dicks, the Rohirrim drove the Dunlandings off their land, the Dunlandings side with Saruman, etc. Humans in the setting are perhaps the only sapient species that's good people on both sides, whereas elves are all good, and orcs are all bad. It's why stuff like A Shadow in the East can be published by Games Workshop, told from the POV of a Haradrim prince, and not feel incongruent with the setting. An orc being the hero of his own story wouldn't work in the setting. A human easily can.

Basically, as I think you're already aware, context matters. Or, I guess it's the nature vs. nurture argument. The 'bad' men above can be said to be "evil" by nurture, whereas, say, the not!Europeans in Terra Nullius are evil by nature, and it can only get around that by making them aliens, even if they're cultural stand-ins. It's why it's much easier to have innately evil races in fantasy/sci-fi that aren't human, and it's rarer to have human groups that ARE inherently evil, because we know that humans aren't like that in the real world. Same reason it's easier to have "evil" alien races than "evil" human factions in sci-fi.
 

fOx

Elite Member
Apr 13, 2020
282
162
48
Country
United States
I think the idea that Tolkien's writing is merely a reflection of mythology is a common and uncritical defence of Tolkien which conveniently sidelines what the philological approach of the early 20th century actually entailed.

Magical creatures in mythology are not representations of fallen humanity (we'll get to that) or the perils of industrialisation, they are features of a historical worldview that predates the idea of humanity itself, let alone industrialisation. To adapt them into that modern worldview, to turn orcs from a nebulous Anglo-Saxon word meaning some kind of vague supernatural evil to a fantasy race within distinct qualities and attributes and heredity requires some kind of process of translation. Not just linguistic translation, but conceptual translation.

This process of translation is central to the body of academic work that influenced Tolkien's writing. It is not about the distant, neutral appreciation of myth, it is about reconciling and rationalizing the inherently fragmented, contradictory nature of myth, originally in service of illustrating its relationship to Christian truth (typically as a perversion thereof) and later a dominant paradigm of western exceptionalism.

Tolkien may have disliked the modern world, but what he did was only possible from a position informed by philosophical modernity. A 10th century Anglo-Saxon could not have written The Lord of the Rings.
I feel like this ignores the historical framework surrounding both philosophy and mythology for thousands of years. Western culture always had a unique, and somewhat paradoxical view of the relationship between Christianity and pagan religions, myths, and philosophies. The very groundwork of western culture was largely based on the work of greek and roman "pagans," who were held in high esteem in their various fields. Tolkiens view of the value of pagan works and culture is not particularly new, in that regard. While he saw christianity as a kind of universal "truth," he also saw the value that other, non christian cultures offered, and sought to incorporate some of their ideals into western culture. A love and respect for nature, for instance, which is very important in his works. I would argue that tolkiens view is actually unusual, compared to the standard academic and cultural views prevalent in his time. He certainly didn't fit in with the modernist literary scholars of his age, who largely rejected his work.
I mean, I'm not sure how else to interpret it.

But of those unhappy ones who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindalë before the Beginning: so say the wise. And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Ilúvatar.
As I stated before, I don't consider the silmarillion a good source of information for tolkiens world view. It is, essentially, a collection of notes that were heavily edited and organized by his son. I stated the theological problem inherent in the work, but more importantly, I stated that tolkien was aware of the problems. It was a work in progress, and most likely would not have represented his final work. The work his son has released is of important academic interest, but there is a danger in a large audience reading the work, and believing that it represented the final work of tolkien, or even accurately represented his world views. It can lead to people extrapolating all sorts of innacurate view points about tolkiens work, and who he was as a person and scholar.
But let's ask a more fundamental question, what does it mean to be corrupted?

The corruption of orcs manifests in several ways. They are physically repulsive ("least lovely mongol types"), they are inherently drawn to evil and they are created to be obedient slaves who cannot challenge the will of their masters. Whether they are the remnants of broken and tortured elves or soulless golems kind of doesn't impact on what they are. They are physically and mentally subhuman, that is what being corrupt means within the narrative.
And this is where I believe you are fundamentally mistaken. Orcs and goblins are not "mentally and physically subhuman." They are depicted as physically tough, and incredibly intelligent and clever. They certainly are on level footing with the other races in terms of military might, intelligence, technology, and even architecture. They even appear to have their own unique cultures. They are not presented as inferior in terms of their mental capacity or physicality, they are presented as inferior morally. As for what they are, that appears to change and evolve throughout tolkiens work. In the hobbit, they are presented as more traditional monsters, based more heavily on mythology. The same is true for the high elves, who are more silly then noble, and forest elves, who are more sinister, mysterious, and dangerous, then dignified. In many ways, the hobbit is a prototype. The Lord of the Rings changes things a good deal more. Orcs in those novels appear to be the more evil, subservient creatures that serve as religious figures, not so much biologically, as spiritually. Free will does not appear to exist for them at all, and it's not clear that they have what would be called a "soul." The problem I have with your theories, is that they are essentially based entirely on notes and early drafts of unfinished manuscripts. What orcs and goblins even are is extremely poorly defined within the finished texts, and appears to evolve over the course of tolkiens work. They mostly appear to evolve from monsters, to a kind of souless automata, but whatever they are is never really finalized. I'm not sure you can call them racist, then you could any random monster throughout the history of myth. And while tolkien claimed to hate allegory, he quite liked the idea of mythical creatures representing various ideas and concepts. He liked the idea of dragons representing greed, or grendal representing greed and malice. He took many of these concepts, and incorporated them into his own work. But to take these ideas and build them into a racial allegory is, I think, misleading and unfair.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Specter Von Baren

Saint of M

Regular Member
Apr 27, 2020
79
11
13
Country
United States
Quick reply to Hawk's Atheism comment a couple pages ago, and also keep in mind, Mormon here.

Hollywood Atheism is still a thing in fiction where someone is godless therefor they can be amoral or hedonistic. THis can be ridiculously, mind meltingly stupid as we all know atheists that are decent human beings and religious people of all stripes that are indulgent. I'm fat, my sin is definitely gluttony.

Case in point, Darling in the Franks, and here's a vid from Mother's Basement on why Jeff Thue really takes umbrage with it (3 minute point for the Atheist part)


Moving on: I think its something most game systems are moving past or finding new takes on it.

Overly Sarcastic Productions did a vid on Trope Talk called Planet of Hats where a entire race or species is noted for one trait (Klingons are proud warriors, Vulcans are Logical, Ferangies are greedy, Green Space Babes are hot, ect.)

Part of the problem is if you have a large enough culture, individuals exist but a general cohesive theme arises within a culture or subsets of that culture. And when making up fantasy races its easy to just take the surface level traits and use that.

Need a decedent empire with gladiatorial death matches, a well oiled military machine? Romes. Like archers and horses? Mongoles.

We do this every day. I don't know how many of you are from the USA and therefor know the different subcultures, here, but generally each state has their own flavor. Some are similar enough they get grouped together, but even here we label different area different things.

All of Luisiana is Jazz, good food, impromptu parades, voodoo, Bourbon Street and Modigras. All of Nevada is Gambling and Pawn Stars. All of Chicago is hotdogs, pizza, and the Italian Mob. Every Brooklynite wants to get into a fight (think most depictions of Raphael from The Ninja Turtles). Utah is Mormons, More Mormons, and Fry Sauce. Idaho loves themselves some potatoes. The Appalachian mountain folk are inbred, backwoods, and make their own illegal booze. Florida is the weirdness center of the world.

This then colors the rest of our view of the world. The Queen's English is the height of uppercrest, while Australia is either Crocodile Hunter or Crocodile Dundee.

I'm sure all of you have your own variants of this. Just look at Axis Powers Hetalia for crying out loud.

Are there people that fit that bill, yes. Is it true of everyone, nope.

Part of this is when we look at peoples both real and fictional, we have a tendency to work backwards and see their surface elements and make it a blanket statement. Why do the Mongols have a thing for horses? why did 1800's China have a Opium problem? Why do Hillbillies get accused of being gun nuts?

Red's vid down here.


I'm going to use some examples of ones that are done right.
In Dragon Age Origins with the Elves. It doesn't take much to see the Jewish influence in their design, living in slums called Alieianages (a Medieval Ghetto my any name), or wondering place to place with nowhere to call home. The former are the punching bag of the nobility, while the latter are trying desperatl to hold on to what little of their traditions. From the lore written in game they were conquered, liberated, then conquered again during a crusaid, which has left much of their culture fragmented.

I also like some of the takes on the Krogen in Mass Effect. While one can argue the overall quality of each game, I think the Krogen are a good start. They come off as brutish, but you have one in your first game that seems more resigned to his fate until given hope in the sequel game. The Shamen in 2 is jovial. And Grunt has hands down one of the funniest scenes in the entire game (it involved a wild night on the town). However, its Adramada that introduces a NPC Krogen that is a cinnamon roll in a lizard's body.

I think you can also have good people in an otherwise brutal and evil society and vice versa. I think most Americans in my country's history were good people but as a whole were supportive of slavery, persecution of the Irish, Chinese, and Blacks, and Latinos, and what can be arguably be considered the worst genocide in history (that of the First Nation peoples).
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
559
144
48
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
Case in point, Darling in the Franks, and here's a vid from Mother's Basement on why Jeff Thue really takes umbrage with it (3 minute point for the Atheist part)
Scientist playing god? I've never really thought of that as an atheist trope. You can get religious characters in fiction who are equally amoral in the same way.
 

Saint of M

Regular Member
Apr 27, 2020
79
11
13
Country
United States
Scientist playing god? I've never really thought of that as an atheist trope. You can get religious characters in fiction who are equally amoral in the same way.
True, but this is one of the common thinking. An alarmingly large number of writers in fiction are lazy, and use easy shorthands and this is one of them. Franks is Amoral because he's an Atheist, which is why Jeff thought that was stupid considering his lack of belief in any higher power. Again also stupid because we all know people with either a lack of faith in a higher power or a neutral/agnostic stance on it and are decent human beings. If faith made you a better human being, half the population of Utah or Rome would have ascended to heaven by now. We all know too many "whited sepulchres" for that to be true.
 

Agema

Ph'nglui mglw'nafn Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
925
471
68
And this is where I believe you are fundamentally mistaken. Orcs and goblins are not "mentally and physically subhuman." They are depicted as physically tough, and incredibly intelligent and clever. They certainly are on level footing with the other races in terms of military might, intelligence, technology, and even architecture. They even appear to have their own unique cultures. They are not presented as inferior in terms of their mental capacity or physicality, they are presented as inferior morally.
I might suggest this is fundamentally problematic considering an argument about racism. The Europeans were very aware that non-white races could be individually physically and mentally impressive, and were capable of producing great art and constructions (with the possible exception of black people). The argument was normally precisely that they were "uncivilised": deficient in morality and social order.

Also, when we want to consider physically subhuman, unlike the hulking brutes of later fantasy authors, Tolkein's orcs were also small: "normal" orcs are shorter than a human and probably closer to a dwarf in height (<5ft), even as small as a hobbit (<4ft). The Uruk-hai are unusually large orcs, but even still only about the size of a normal man. The Dunedain are described as towering over the tallest orc: if we take the Dunedain as about 6.5ft, then it's unlikely even the biggest orcs exceeded 6 ft.
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
559
144
48
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
I might suggest this is fundamentally problematic considering an argument about racism. The Europeans were very aware that non-white races could be individually physically and mentally impressive, and were capable of producing great art and constructions (with the possible exception of black people). The argument was normally precisely that they were "uncivilised": deficient in morality and social order.

Also, when we want to consider physically subhuman, unlike the hulking brutes of later fantasy authors, Tolkein's orcs were also small: "normal" orcs are shorter than a human and probably closer to a dwarf in height (<5ft), even as small as a hobbit (<4ft). The Uruk-hai are unusually large orcs, but even still only about the size of a normal man. The Dunedain are described as towering over the tallest orc: if we take the Dunedain as about 6.5ft, then it's unlikely even the biggest orcs exceeded 6 ft.
So, I'm quoting part of Fox's point as well, but I think he's giving orcs too much credit. I don't recall any great archtitecture of orcs, and whatever strategy they have seems to come from non-orcs, such as Sauron or Morgoth. Yes, there's the occasional exception, but orcs tend to be pretty mindless. The films certainly ran with this.

But even then, the whole "orcs are racist" insinuation...frankly, I find it a stretch. The argument mainly comes from Tolkein comparing them to "least lovely Mongol types," a statement that, while we can criticize it, is never in the text itself. Frankly, if one wants to argue that LotR is racist, focusing on the human groups gives someone a firmer leg to stand on, even if it's mitigated by factors I've described prior in the thread.
 

Thaluikhain

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
267
71
33
I don't like D&D, simply because it's basically a tactical wargame manual with a few extra add-ons. Classes have all these special skills, and they're basically all ways of killing things. All the utility of magic in the world, and it seems hardly anyone has thought of things to do with it except kill things.
Isn't that more a later editions thing, and way back in the older days there were lots of other stuff you could do? Often really stupid, though.