DnD addresses racism.

happyninja42

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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.
My issue with D&D isn't that it's "kiddy" compared to others (the World of Darkness settings were infamous for their juvenile settings and tropes back in the day), it's that the majority of the actual printed content, is predominantly devoted to combat. It's either talking about feats, and gear, and combat rules, and magical spells that are almost all combat oriented. Where if you counted up the pages in each publication that are devoted to the story/setting, versus the combat stuff, it's probably like 75-80% of it for combat. Which I frankly just get bored with. I don't play roleplaying games just to be battle simulators, that's what I have video games for, and I don't really want battle simulators out of my video games either. I prefer games that encourage more narrative, "theatrical" play. And D&D just doesn't do that. You CAN do it sure, but the onus is entirely on the GM and the players to do that, because the published material really doesn't give you a whole lot to work with.

And this isn't unique to D&D in my experience, a lot of roleplaying games confuse ROLEplaying with ROLLplaying, and devote too much time to the crunch stuff, in my opinion. It's one reason I've sort of fallen out of the pasttime, as it's just not what *I* am looking for in a table top experience.
 

Agema

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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.
There's no great evidence of orc architecture. There's Barad Dur, perhaps, but potentially Sauron designed it and orcs just did the labour. I'm not sure they'd be capable of great architecture, likely because they're just too chaotic and disorderly to get a large project done.

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.
I'm very neutral on the whole thing. That Tolkein was at least a bit racist is likely given prevailing attitudes of the time. On the other hand, I think there's always a concern that once you look for something, you'll see it whether it's there or not. That sort of thing happens in science with its notionally objective experimentation, never mind textual interpretation in arts and humanities.
 

Thaluikhain

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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.
IIRC, he did describe orcs as slant eyed and yellow skinned. Personally I'd say that there is at least racism in LotR, but that's not to say we should burn all copies of it. It might be nice if people trying to be the next Tolkien wouldn't just copy and paste from him without thinking about it.

(Also, Tolkien was a professor of languages before quitting that and becoming another professor of languages. This might be of some relevance to anyone thinking they can create their own fantasy languages because Tolkien did)

(Also also, if we want to complain about Tolkien's attitudes, there's his gender and class stuff as well, those seem to get overshadowed)
 

CriticalGaming

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I know I'm late to the party but when I read this story I felt like it was simply racist baiting.

There is nothing in the core rulebooks of DnD that says these races are real world analogs of any racist feelings. It's simply people trying to put their made up outrage upon it. And Wizards not wanting to rock the boat, just agreed to rewrite the way these fantasy fictional people are described.

The fact that Wizards was so eager and willing to rewrite the lore shows you just how pointless the lore within DnD actually is.

It's a tabletop game, run by a DM that has complete creative control. All Wizards does is provide framework, and it's really hollow framework at that. They give you enough to get ideas and to build on for your own games. As a results it's really just generic stuff.There is no racism in meaning of intention with DnD lore writing.

I don't understand why people flip out over fake shit so much. Don't we have enough real world issues to address that you have to nitpick fantasy stereotypes? I mean someone has to be the villian in a fantasy land, you can't have a game that doesn't have bad guys in it.

This shows to me that you can make an argument that depicts everything as homophobic, sexist, or racist if you try hard enough. It's a bogus most of the time.
 
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fOx

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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.
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.
By this logic, any evil fantasy "monster" is inherently racist, regardless of intelligence, strength, or context.
 

Eacaraxe

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I don't understand why people flip out over fake shit so much. Don't we have enough real world issues to address that you have to nitpick fantasy stereotypes? I mean someone has to be the villian in a fantasy land, you can't have a game that doesn't have bad guys in it.
You're not getting there from here until you remember a lot of us old grognards came up playing D&D during and through the satanic panic. For that, this is a teeny-tiny bit of a sensitive topic and culture warring against this hobby in particular has long been a rallying cry. I'm speaking from personal experience shit got real during the satanic panic, and that was a source of more than one childhood trauma.

Stranger Things and D&D came up earlier in the thread, and frankly those scenes were actually a little hard to watch for me because they dredged up some shit I'd rather leave in the past. I'm from south-central Indiana, and Hawkins is pretty much the spitting image of it. Suffice to say kids being allowed to play D&D without holy rollers going nuclear is a less believable story beat than the Upside Down, Demogorgon, and telekinetic LSD kids put together.
 
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Buyetyen

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By this logic, any evil fantasy "monster" is inherently racist, regardless of intelligence, strength, or context.
That's reductionist. Monsters of all kind are simply an expression of a fear. And if somebody has some cultural baggage, that'll probably come across in the monsters they create. Compare for example the European Gothic horror tradition which portrays evil as perversions of normalcy, order and nature with the Japanese tradition of horror tales in which evil is simply just another part of the natural world if a dangerous one. The wendigo myth of the Great Lakes indigenous tribes was about the fear of starvation and the temptation toward cannibalism. And sometimes a monster is just a bullshit story started to scare kids into doing something like staying away from the banks of rivers.

That said, racially coding monsters and outside civilizations has been a thing in fantasy for a while. It was arguably Robert E. Howard who popularized it, and if you want to argue that he wasn't a racist, then you've never read Robert E. Howard. So given that we've been doing this without thinking for about a hundred years now, maybe it's time to start asking why do we keep doing it and do we have to?

The fact that Wizards was so eager and willing to rewrite the lore shows you just how pointless the lore within DnD actually is.
Then what's the problem?
 
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Hawki

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It might be nice if people trying to be the next Tolkien wouldn't just copy and paste from him without thinking about it.
I don't think anyone's trying to be the next Tolkein. If you look at the big names in fantasy fiction right now (Martin, Errickson, Sanderson, Jemisin, etc.), none of their works are really based on LotR, and if anything, are arguably a rejection of it.
 

Agema

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By this logic, any evil fantasy "monster" is inherently racist, regardless of intelligence, strength, or context.
Not necessarily.

What's being suggested is that the races in Middle Earth reflect Tolkein's attitudes to real-world race, thus analysing how he portrays those fantasy races may reveal his own potential real world racism. However, there's no reason that has to be true for all authors. Maybe they just made a "bad guy race" to fill a convenient narrative gap, and there's no reason to think they have any basis in real world races at all.
 

Saint of M

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Part of the overall problem I think might be "its always been that way" kind of attitude. People making these game systems Coppying the story elements of the past because they worked without much thought. If you spend a few moments to tweek a few things, you can adjust but most people want to ride on cruise controle.

Its the equivalent of this popular tale:

A family is having a large get together, and a little girl sees her mom cutting the sides off a meatloaf before putting it in the oven. THe girl asks why and the mom replies that's just how i was taught. After a few more why's the mom goes to the different relatives who all have the same story. They end up calling the great grandma and ask her why and she goes: Well, the oven was too small! I couldn't fit it in otherwise.!

I think once we really get passed the "Its always been that way" mentality gameing as a whole will have less of this issue.
 
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Agema

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I don't think anyone's trying to be the next Tolkein. If you look at the big names in fantasy fiction right now (Martin, Errickson, Sanderson, Jemisin, etc.), none of their works are really based on LotR, and if anything, are arguably a rejection of it.
Yes. We're a long way past "the new Tolkein" - that was very much an 80s and 90s thing, although I'm pretty sure it was being cited in blurbs as late as the 2000s.

There's always been an alternative vein to Tolkein - think people like Fritz Lieber or Michael Moorcock - of cynicism and rogues, albeit of lower popularity. But there's only so long you can have a few square-jawed heroes with a magic sword valiantly fighting the dark lord before it gets stale, and that's long since happened. Although, of course, Tolkein was considerably more complex than most of the derivative stuff that copied his model.
 

Terminal Blue

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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.
In Tolkien's writing, the terms orc and goblin are used interchangeably. Tolkien gave different physical descriptions of orcs which are generally interpreted to mean that orcs vary considerably in size, but they're generally described as smaller than men and elves and are strongly implied to be weaker. There's a lot of in-universe speculation, for example, that uruk-hai might be a mixture of orcs and men, which would explain their improved physical abilities relative to other orcs. Even without the cartoonish killing sprees of the Peter Jackson films, orcs are usually depicted as kind of useless. They have armies, buildings and technology of a sort, but it is entirely unclear how much of it is their own, and how much they are simply directed by their masters. Then, as you say, there's the whole "soulessness" angle..

Agema also made a particularly good point here. Racism does not require "inferior" races to be inferior in every way. Anti-semitism, in particular, is often predicated on the idea that Jews are unusually intelligent and cunning. To quote Sartre:

The anti‐Semite readily admits that the Jew is intelligent and hard‐working; he will even confess himself inferior in these respects. This concession costs him nothing, for he has, as it were, put those qualities in parentheses. Or rather they derive their value from the one who possesses them: the more virtues the Jew has the more dangerous he will be.

Real world racism often requires that inferior races have qualities that set them apart. Hence, the myth that black people have unusual physical prowess, that Jews or east Asians are clever and calculating. This does not mean that they are not seen as racially inferior by the person who believes, it is required to justify the idea that these races are dangerous and that action must be taken to control them.

The orcs in Tolkien are given whatever qualities are required to make them dangerous enemies, but they remain fundamentally lacking certain moral qualities of humanity. Even if they are not necessarily always depicted as weaker or stupider than other races, which I would argue they often are, it is only to the degree required to make them a credible threat, and never paints them in any way as the equal to any of the free races, including men. They're subhuman in the sense that they're not quite people, they lack the features and qualities of human beings that make human beings sympathetic or worth caring about, and while that's pretty normal (they're monsters) it's troubling in this case because they are a "race" with heredity.
 

CriticalGaming

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Then what's the problem?
The same can be said towards the people who want it changed. It is nothing more than a story building block. You can project your ideals upon anything and therefore nothing should be allowed?

These groups can find something offensive about a plain grey room. If you are wiling to bend the knee at every little provocation, then you fuel them to demand more and more things changed or ultimately REMOVED.
 
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Buyetyen

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These groups can find something offensive about a plain grey room. If you are wiling to bend the knee at every little provocation, then you fuel them to demand more and more things changed or ultimately REMOVED.
So your problem is that other people are having the fun the wrong way.
 

Thaluikhain

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I don't think anyone's trying to be the next Tolkein. If you look at the big names in fantasy fiction right now (Martin, Errickson, Sanderson, Jemisin, etc.), none of their works are really based on LotR, and if anything, are arguably a rejection of it.
Well, trying to be the anti-Tolkien is often pretty embarassing as well, but ok, true, nowdays the big fantasy has moved beyond aping Tolkien, was thinking more of older stuff.
 

fOx

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Not necessarily.

What's being suggested is that the races in Middle Earth reflect Tolkein's attitudes to real-world race, thus analysing how he portrays those fantasy races may reveal his own potential real world racism. However, there's no reason that has to be true for all authors. Maybe they just made a "bad guy race" to fill a convenient narrative gap, and there's no reason to think they have any basis in real world races at all.
But therein lies the issue. What would suggest that the orcs are stand ins for real world races? Anf why is it racist when tolkien does it, and not when other fantasy writers do it?

In Tolkien's writing, the terms orc and goblin are used interchangeably. Tolkien gave different physical descriptions of orcs which are generally interpreted to mean that orcs vary considerably in size, but they're generally described as smaller than men and elves and are strongly implied to be weaker. There's a lot of in-universe speculation, for example, that uruk-hai might be a mixture of orcs and men, which would explain their improved physical abilities relative to other orcs. Even without the cartoonish killing sprees of the Peter Jackson films, orcs are usually depicted as kind of useless. They have armies, buildings and technology of a sort, but it is entirely unclear how much of it is their own, and how much they are simply directed by their masters. Then, as you say, there's the whole "soulessness" angle..

Agema also made a particularly good point here. Racism does not require "inferior" races to be inferior in every way. Anti-semitism, in particular, is often predicated on the idea that Jews are unusually intelligent and cunning. To quote Sartre:

The anti‐Semite readily admits that the Jew is intelligent and hard‐working; he will even confess himself inferior in these respects. This concession costs him nothing, for he has, as it were, put those qualities in parentheses. Or rather they derive their value from the one who possesses them: the more virtues the Jew has the more dangerous he will be.

Real world racism often requires that inferior races have qualities that set them apart. Hence, the myth that black people have unusual physical prowess, that Jews or east Asians are clever and calculating. This does not mean that they are not seen as racially inferior by the person who believes, it is required to justify the idea that these races are dangerous and that action must be taken to control them.

The orcs in Tolkien are given whatever qualities are required to make them dangerous enemies, but they remain fundamentally lacking certain moral qualities of humanity. Even if they are not necessarily always depicted as weaker or stupider than other races, which I would argue they often are, it is only to the degree required to make them a credible threat, and never paints them in any way as the equal to any of the free races, including men. They're subhuman in the sense that they're not quite people, they lack the features and qualities of human beings that make human beings sympathetic or worth caring about, and while that's pretty normal (they're monsters) it's troubling in this case because they are a "race" with heredity.
But any fictional monster would have to have race and heredity. If you're talking about the idea that orcs are corrupted elves or men, that idea is never canonized, as i've said before. Tolkien saw the idea as problematic himself, spiritually speaking. As I've said before, the nature of orcs is too poorly defined to make parallels with race credible. All the races change drastically between The Hobbit and LotR.
 

Agema

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But therein lies the issue. What would suggest that the orcs are stand ins for real world races? Anf why is it racist when tolkien does it, and not when other fantasy writers do it?
You'd have to ask the people who want to make that argument.

Like I said, I think you can influenced by what you are trying to do - essentially, a cognitive bias such as confirmation bias. If someone does research on Tolkein and starts with the hypothesis "Tolkein was racist", what they will likely do is assess everything they can find that seems supportive of that notion and flag them, then bundle them up and make the argument. However, had they not started with that hypothesis, it's likely many of those same things would have passed without notice.
 

Hades

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DnD also got rid of Brutalitops the Magician and every character and plot associated with him. Now Netflix lost Dungeons and Dragons, and it was advanced!
 

Saint of M

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I think how Pathfinder is doing things is a good way to go about it. First edition hey played up the whole rappy aspect of how you make most half orcs, and the whole hillbilly horror hills have eyes esk aspects of the Ogres. This was taken out or toned down in the new book, especially when several icionics were not (the Inquisitor was was left as a babe in an orphanage, the Battle Priest was due to a casual fling, and half orc paladin and wife of the trans woman shaman, was nt only the product of a happy union the father gave up his raider ways and married her mom specifically).

Now this is not a part f the main orc background, but I actually did a Society game where we had a casual trade agreements with a clan.

At the same time they are still having fun with inspirations. Taldon is still Freedom Land (a hyper rose tinted glasses version of Union side of The AMerican Revolution and American Civil War), and Rasmirand is what if North Korea was run by the Church of Scientology
 

Fieldy409

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I could never get behind the idea of purely evil races except things like illithids where a hive mind is involved.

It just doesn't make sense to know they're all individuals yet every orc is evil somehow. I wrote in tribes of orcs that weren't peaceful but were willing to work as mercenaries, they aren't evil they simply have a burning instinct to fight something and the idea that 'civilised' half orcs might spend their time living two lives, one among the civilised races but also among the orcs.
 
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