Call for diversity in D&D rulebooks

On, Mordicai Knode asks Wizards of the Coast to consider a more diverse set of portrayals of fantastic personages in the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

That being said, I think it is useful for some rough generalizations. Like the fact that in the Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook there are only four black characters. There are more diabolically red skinned people — tieflings — then there are dark skinned people. By a…fairly wide margin. Still, an improvement over the Third Edition Player’s Handbook in some respects. In the third edition, you’ve got Ember, the human monk — but other than her initial appearance under the class description, she’s absent from the rest of the book. Some artists have depicted Regdar as black, and he along with some of the other character have a generous color palate, by which I mean that their ethnicity is fluid on the page. They are hardly pale but neither are they a deep brown in skin tone, lending them a lot of flexibility for reader identification. (Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics would be proud.) And just for kicks, I flipped through an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player’s Handbook; there is an illustration so purple it could be ambiguous, but no, that book, like so much of yesteryear, is entirely Caucasian. Lots of crazy mustaches, though...

I’ve heard a litany of excuses for why there are predominantly white people portrayed in roleplaying art, but I’m not buying it. Maybe your claim is that the people buying the game are primarily Caucasian? Since when did it become a bad idea to have a product that appeals to a wider demographic? Dungeons & Dragons exists in the real world. A world where there are people who aren’t white. People who might want to start playing, if they saw themselves reflected in the product. Why artificially limit your profits by only pursuing a narrow demographic? and what, do you think white players are incapable of identifying with people of color? I don’t agree, and I’d point to the widespread acclaim that Order of the Stick has gotten; even if your motive is unmitigated greed, I can think of 1,254,120 reasons to support a diverse cast and complex story telling.

A Modest Proposal For Increased Diversity in D&D


  1. I have neither the strength nor wisdom to counter these points, but I do have the intelligence not to try too hard. #firstworldproblems*3rdEd

  2. I had a DM back in college tell me that I wasn’t role-playing my Drow “ghetto” enough. He was serious, too. 

  3. You could roll a 20-sided die to get your Privilege, which would also be your Racial Guilt score!

  4. I don’t even know what to say… There are quite bit of diversity, Dragon Born, elf, Eladrin, Halflings, Gnomes, TIeflings, and thats not even touching the supplements. 

    Yes, I forgot, in the game of pure imagination with everything taking place entirely in your mind, you rely on the art within the manuals. Having a human racially diverse setting should be up to your DM and up to you as players, not up to the wizards of the coast.

    Why stop there, I want to see more gay characters in my D&D. I also want to see rules for mentally challenged, or disabled characters. Is D&D telling me its not ok, to play a character in a wheel chair? I know I can role play or make this happened with my DM, but I need to see some art showing the entire spectrum of human diversity. And not just for humans, I want to see every race and every creed to be shown in art. 

    1.  Your comment baffles me.  I guess that you are trying to imagine absurd scenarios that might be forthcoming if WotC addressed this request, but you can’t honestly think that there is anything wrong with including gay characters or differently-abled characters (I actually thought that the latter was a novel idea).  How would more diversity in the D & D rulebook negatively impact the experience for you? 

    2. I did not expect to see such dipshittery in the BoingBoing comments.

      Why, exactly, should the default images of fantasy humans be nearly all white? Why not have queer example characters? And what in the name of Blibdoolpoolp is wrong with having examples of disabled characters in your RPG when the SF tradition has given us Hile Troy, Professor Xavier, Geordi LaForge, Elric, and Hodor?

      It’s not just more inclusive and welcoming to use a variety of ethnicities in your RPG illustrations. It’s not just a good socially active thing to do. It’s good for creativity — showing us things that aren’t the same western-European-punk we’ve seen for the past thirty years is a goad to a DM’s creativity. Of course we “rely on the art within the manuals” — if the art didn’t serve a purpose, they wouldn’t spend money on it. What are the illustrations in the PHB for, if not to give us a launching point for our imaginations? And who wouldn’t want launching points that give us something new?

      I honestly don’t get the hackles.

      1. You mean he wasn’t being serious about wanting to see greater diversity of all kinds?  Ick.

      2. Congrats, in your rallying against “dipshittery”, you managed to lower the tone closer to it by using that very term in your opening line. Please try to be civil.

      3.  I simply cannot understand why some people believe it’s the duty of every single writer and artist to tackle all social issues from our world when they create works of fiction, especially when this fiction takes place in a fantasy world.

        Many of us have our pet issues that we like to see addressed, but I may be more focused on different issues than you and vice versa, and it’s silly to expect everyone to put as much focus on your issues as you’d like.

        Even constantly fighting for you own issues gets sort of weird. My pet issue is alcohol, the greatest social problem in large parts of the world, but even I don’t address that issue in every single piece of fiction I write.

        1. I believe that phenomena has been called “The Troll’s Paradox of Impossibility of Right Action” – no matter what kind of good you think you’re doing, someone can always point out some social issue that you should have been working on instead.

          1.  Why you wasted your time with this comment instead of using it feed the homeless is beyond me. And now you’ve wasted time I could have used to rescue a puppy!

        2. When it comes to equality issues, it is the duty of every single writer and artist to tackle it.  Because if you don’t make a conscious effort to examine the problem, you tend to perpetuate it. It’s OK not to talk about the problem in everything you do, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to be part of the problem.

           When art editors only put white people in the rulebook, they’re not just ‘focused on different issues right now’, they’re not just ignoring the problem, they’re being the problem. Roleplay is fantasy; it has no race problems – except the ones we create and perpetuate when we act like white people are the human race.

          (Quick, name a black wizard. Other than Ged.)

          Only last night I was planning my next con trip and commenting on how sad it was that at my last one, in a live game  where racial issues mattered to the plot, all black and hispanic characters were marked with tags on the namebadges. Because we only had white players.

          That is a bad thing, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because there’s no black people in my country who would like to roleplay. When you see common bad patterns, suspect systemic problems. Then fix them.

          1. > (Quick, name a black wizard. Other than Ged.)

            Roy Greenhilt’s dad, whatever his name is. (No idea who Ged is.)

          2. I don’t think the art directors at WOTC tell their artists: Hey we need some characters, but make sure they’re white. I think they ask for classes, or even genders, but I don’t think they ever even think about racial identity in their art. 

            If we always, AWLAYs focus on racial identity in everything we do, how are we suppose to get past it? Shouldn’t it come naturally, or as artists or writes everything we do should go through a pre-flight check to make sure we have enough diversity in our characters or art?

          3. If we always, AWLAYs focus on racial identity in everything we do, how are we suppose to get past it?

            In what alternate universe do human beings ‘get past’ things by pretending that they don’t exist?

          4. Replying to Martijn Vos:
            He’s called Eugene.
            Ged is the central character of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet.

            And as for other black wizards- in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time there are various different fictional ethnic groups, and I think we meet magic-users from all of them, but I don’t know if any actually map onto “black” although plenty are very dark-skinned.

          5.  Everyone who named a brown wizard: Now name five more, in the next five minutes, without using the Internet, books, or any other tools.

            I can name ten white, male wizards off the top of my head.

          6. I don’t think the art directors at WOTC tell their artists: Hey we need some characters, but make sure they’re white.

            Straw man.  Absolutely no one is making this accusation.

            If we always, AWLAYs focus on racial identity in everything we do, how are we suppose to get past it?

            There’s a difference between focusing on something and being aware of it.  I don’t think anyone’s asking WotC to focus on diversity issues.  As a fantasy game publisher that’s not really their role.  But that’s no reason the people creating materials for WotC can’t be aware of the problems and to use that awareness to create a more inclusive product.

          7. @boingboing-0328d081221f962475b35e217219e79e:disqus  “(Quick, name a black wizard. Other than Ged.)”

            Oooh!  We’re going to play “Gotcha?”  I love Gotcha!

            Quick, name three monsters of Beduin myth.

            Quick, provide examples of mystic powers claimed by pre-Islamic-conversion Swahili priests.

            Quick, name an extant headhunting tribe of Southeast Asia.

            DIFFICULTY: cite a primary source for your answers.

          8. @rosemwelch:disqus “I can name ten white, male wizards off the top of my head.”
            That’s pretty good, because I can’t.  Gandalf, Sarumon, Elminster, Zifnab, Raistlin, Pug, Richard Rahl and Zed, and that’s all I can do without long awkward pauses or Wikipedia searches to be sure I’m spelling the names correctly.Wait, can I count Shadowrun shaman, or does it have to be medieval fantasy?  Altho’ only one of those is white….

          9. @boingboing-0328d081221f962475b35e217219e79e:disqus ”
            That is a bad thing, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because there’s no black people in my country who would like to roleplay. When you see common bad patterns, suspect systemic problems. Then fix them. ”

            Are you in America?  Because a lot of the black people my age have been afraid of white nerds since Columbine.

        3. Alcoholism isn’t nearly as pervasive as sexism, racism, ect. And, of course, you’re the only person extending this proposal to to ‘every single writer and artist’. I only see a request for some new illustrations to one publisher.

          EDIT: Can’t reply so I’m editing to add this fact:

          Pervasive =/= Important.

          1. Wait.  You don’t care if this is extended to more than just WotC?  Now I’m confused, because I thought racial equality was a moral imperative – is it not?  Is racial equality a societal goal, or something for “one publisher” – not a publisher chosen according to some objective criteria, or due to rigorous study, just any old publisher that we let some random, lazy (he disparages D&D for showing Ember once, then not again, but says right off that he didn’t bother flipping all the way through Pathfinder) guy pick?

            PS: I thought alcoholism was a serious issue, but since you say it isn’t as important as “sexism, racism, ect,” it would be great if we could get a list of the et cetera.

            PPS: Is sexism or racism more important?  This whole blowup is over racism, and if sexism is more important we should tell WotC to fix misogyny for 5th Ed and maybe save racism for 6th.

        4. I simply cannot understand why some people believe it’s the duty of every single writer and artist to tackle all social issues from our world when they create works of fiction, especially when this fiction takes place in a fantasy world.

          I don’t think either I or Mordicai were arguing that. If you want to publish a historically accurate RPG set in pre-Roman Britain, or an updated edition of Toon, I don’t think anyone would expect you to address modern race issues.

          D&D isn’t that kind of RPG. D&D is a blank fantasy template onto which you can project any kind of setting or character you want. If all of the art depicts white people, then the publisher is saying white is the default for fantasy in general, not just for a single created world. If you’re commissioning two dozen paintings of generic fantasy wizards, and all of them just happen to be white, then you should start looking for reasons why. Doesn’t mean anyone’s a bad person, but why not examine your assumptions and shoot for a broader palette of ideas?

          It’s pretty easy to fix this. You can hire non-white artists and give them a bit of free rein. You can specify race-blind art design and let your artists surprise you (I bet there are a lot of fantasy artists who are bored of painting generic western European heroes all the time). It doesn’t have to involve draconian quotas.

      4. Well, I guess you can’t convey tone over type. I was completely serious. I never wanted to come off as saying that showing only white characters was the way to go. I was just saying that if you want to promote diversity, you can’t focus on just black and white. 

        Im no expert, but Im pretty sure there are more asian people in the world then anybody else. Statistically there are also 1 in 10 people who are gay, they need a pretty strong presence too. Where do you draw the line? How can you possibly say that: Well if we want to promote diversity, we better ad some black people to our art. 

        If anything adding just black characters will be insulting. Because instead of focusing on promoting diversity, they would just be trying to make it look like they are promoting diversity. 

        Also, thanks straight up insulting me in the first sentence of your post.

        1. I apologize for the insult, but, dude, you were not being serious. “Yes, I forgot, in the game of pure imagination with everything taking place entirely in your mind, you rely on the art within the manuals…. I know I can role play or make this happened with my DM, but I need to see some art showing the entire spectrum of human diversity” is not a genuine request. You were being sarcastic. Embrace it.

          And who said anything about adding only black characters?

          I don’t think the art directors at WOTC tell their artists: Hey we need some characters, but make sure they’re white.

          According to Monte Cook, that’s exactly what TSR said for 2E: “When I worked at TSR, there was always basically a truism in cover art–the central figure had to be a white male. Most of us actually helping to create the cover art, either by conceiving it or actually creating it, hated that kind of outlook, but the powers that be believed that our audience was entirely white males and they needed someone that they could identify with on the cover.” (link)

        2. (Replying to this message because the other one has reached the end of the thread limit.)

          I’m also sure that the art directors don’t tell the artists to draw all their characters as white. I’m sure that nobody thinks about it. That is exactly the problem – nobody thinks about it, so everybody ends up drawing white characters, because white is the default.

          White as default should not be what comes naturally. That’s what the original article is requesting, and it’s a pretty simple request. It’s also a simple task to fill: If you’re an artist, why not make your next elf warrior brown? 

    3. The Savage Worlds system ( ), with its extensive set of traits, has rules for playing crippled characters, or those with a variety of mental issues* — or even the young (pre-teen) or old (50+), another two groups massively under-represented in roleplay art.

      And how do you know none of those characters in the D&D artwork are gay? I’ve never seen it stated anywhere “all these characters are straight”. I’ve played gay characters in fantasy settings… Do you mean to be making an analogy between dark-skinned humans and camp males / butch females in the artwork? Because assuming all gay people live up to that sort of stereotype’s pretty bigoted.

      * heck, in any RPG, you can dump-stat INT and/or CHA if you want to play someone with learning difficulties ( ).

      1. The older D&D art can certainly be viewed as ‘heteronormative’ , but there is a certain amount of homo-eroticism played out on the pages of fantasy and sci-fi. Looking at slash fiction for Star Trek gives you evidence of one way of how a text is re-evaluated.

        On a sexuality point, it is more valuable (I think) to address the content of modules and adventures for evidence of  dominant hegemony at play. When was the last time your male barbarian rescued the prince from the clutches of evil because he is the love of your life?

      2. We’re looking at iconic characters here, from rulebooks. You have a page of text to explain a class by way of a character. Nobody cares whether they picked up a man or a woman in the last tavern.

        As for skin color: they already have to worry about a balance in fantasy races. Skin color in elves means something different from skin color in humans. Same with dwarves. Orcs and half-orcs have green skin.

        There are more dark-skinned human iconics in Pathfinder than there are half-orcs, total.

      3. Of course the Savage Worlds artwork tends toward impractically revealing clothes for female characters, and more practical clothes for male ones.

        But the Savage Worlds rules definitely play fast and allow for distinctive characters. I think they lean too far with the wild die, which encourages players to think they can do anything, and with the emphasis on edges and hindrances [but they share that with D6 and most any other recent system].

      1.  Blind wizards, rogues with wooden legs, one-armed clerics with shields mounted on their prostheses…there are actually a lot of interesting possibilities with this idea.

    4. I’m still trying to figure out how you can tell by the illustrations in the Player’s Handbook which characters are gay.

      Your gaydar must be *amazing*.

        1. Glasgow has a surprisingly large Jewish community from a scam where emigrants heading from Eastern Europe to New York were fleeced into getting off the boat at the stop along the way.

           Scottish-accented Hebrew rules.

    5. It would take up between 50 and 100 pages and include lots of fact filled write ups on all your new options and a ton of colored art work instead of the horrible line drawings that we must use our imaginations with. Wizards of the Coast could then put it out as 5.0 after tacking it on to a barely rehashed version of 3.5 and charge at least sixty bucks for each players handbook, thereby appeasing both those calling racist and everyone still angry about fourth edition.

  5. Given that D&D draws from a wonderfully whacky post-modern conglomeration of cultures– you’ve got your rakshasa fighting shaolin monks and Charlemagne style paladins, you’ve got 3 hearts and 3 lions style trolls as minions to cthuloid monsters from dimension theta. Seems only rational that the cultures and races should be mostly non-european, given the infinity of the multiverse.

    1.  I seem to recall a lot of Arabic, Chinese and African mythological beasties. “Human” as a race never had the ethnicity specified because it wasn’t set on Earth, so as a player you had free reign to give your paladin from the south cornrows if you wanted.

      1. Absolutely so. There’s nothing biased about D&D sources or it’s text. It’s always been a game that made it easy to be whoever you wanted, and make the world fit.

        The (unconscious) bias in the art tends to undermine that, however, so that’s surely worth addressing.

          1.  Which is why the call shouldn’t be to diversify D&D but to go back to the art style of 1st and Advanced books. Everything is badly drawn in black and white and the faces are often ignored or so poorly drawn that you’d guess it could be any ethnicity.

      2. Actually, they’re pretty thin on the African mythological sources, too. Not counting Egypt.

    1. It’s also worth noting that Pathfinder’s incredible success in surpassing D&D 4E sales is what’s led Wizards of the Coast to announce a 5th edition. Presumably, they’re taking these criticisms to heart.

    1. Yep. Absolutely.

      (Although I started on classic Vampire. Where the vampires all get paler as they age, until they’re ancient goth-makeup-white, except for that clan of assassins who age to jet-paint-black…)

      WoD does way better than pretty much everything before it, but that doesn’t mean it has no issues.

      1.  Well, there’s the history. *headdesk*

        Or the mindset, in Vampire campaigns, that if you’re not playing a conniving power-hungry maniac intent on killing every other member of the party, you’re not playing it right. Or the rules/power exploits.

  6. Let it be clear that the picture is from Pathfinder, and the author all but says “Pathfinder gets it right, so it’s clearly not endemic to fantasy gaming, which is a hugely important point.

    Not to get edition-wars-y, but this is another way in which Paizo runs circles around WoTC. Add in its treatment of gay characters. This is not to say that it or its world is perfect, but it’s pretty refreshing to have a gaming company that at least is aware of modernity.

    1. “this is another way in which Paizo runs circles around WoTC”

      WoTC runs?? That would require getting up.

    2. Although I own the Pathfinder main rulebook, I can’t recall any particular attention paid to gay characters. To what are you referring?

      BTW, I’m finally reading Wise Man’s Fear and just discovered some of the characters are gay, and everybody’s like “Ok, that’s cool, whatever.” Neatly done.

      1. Off the top of my head, the evil queen Ileosa in the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path shacked up with the head of the Gray Maidens after she knocked off her husband.

        A slightly more positive image is found in the Argentate Blades, one of the groups described in the Rival Guide – Tatius Cheriford is said to have fallen in love with the wizard Exander Runthorn after rescuing him from a dungeon, a situation which causes some friction with his sister.

        There are many more examples – descriptions of how the Church of Callistria operates is fairly gender neutral, and when talking about PC relationships with NPCs, the authors leave it wide open. The best thing about how Paizo’s writers treat gay characters (and their treatment of sex in general in the game) is that it’s normally just mentioned in passing – there isn’t a big deal made about it. It’s not the most common type of relationship described, but it does happen in the background fairly regularly. Better still, gay characters are just as likely to be good, neutral or evil as hetero ones – there’s no special treatment one way or the other

  7. I seem to remember that the reason they originally left the human skin-tones up to the players without any special modifiers in the rules is that they tried to avoid this mess right here (I remember there being a line somewhere that humans come in many colours and left it at that). I would also remember that at least in Forgotten Realms it’s stated that skin-colours become deeper the farther south one goes and “asians” live on the continent next door. How should this have been addressed better? Perhaps blacks should have +1 to Strength? Or Asians +1 to Intelligence? And perhaps -1 to one attribute or another.. You see where this is going. 

    The original rulebooks of D&D were also B&W,  and deciphering dark skin-tones are rather hard to do without making faces into badly drawn mess.. at least without using rasters, and the artists of those old editions had apparently never heard of them. If the artists had even a bit bias toward white, it isn’t hard to see how there were so very few people of other skin colours in the class illustrations.

      1.  Because people loves to assert their own beliefs by forcing others to comply . If we see D&D having more “real world” racial diversity, someone is going to think “I was right all along!”. And the more popular or known something is, the higher the feeling. “I was right AND EVERYONE ELSE WAS NOT!”.
        But, this is a problem that doesn’t exist. Nothing prevents the player from going black, asian, european, filipino or whatever. I played a few black characters for the fun of it myself.

        Besides, games are for fun, not politics.

        1. Then there shouldn’t be a problem with making the default art more diverse. There’s no reason for not doing so.

          Games are for fun, but surely, everyone’s fun? Not just the white people’s fun? And before you answer that, remember that it wasn’t so long ago that, in the US, where these games were created, white people’s fun and dark-skinned people’s fun were separated by law. If it doesn’t occur to artists to draw more black characters, it’s because the traces of a racist ideology still remain in their society, their upbringing, their environment. No, it’s not their fault- but it is their responsibility to try and alter that environment. It’s every decent person’s responsibility.

          I mean, I’m white as milk, I shouldn’t even notice that other skin tones are under-represented, right? It’s not my fight, is it? 

  8. There’s diversity in fantasy races, sure, but it’s funny that almost all the humans are drawn as white.

    I don’t think this is deliberate racism on the part of Tor or the artists; it’s just yet another manifestation of white as the default. And white as default is, in fact, a problem, whether you are on board with that idea or not.

    Really, what’s your problem with this? It’s a pretty simple request. Why are you being all sarcastic about it? What’s the hangup?

    1. It’s not actually that odd that “almost all the humans are drawn as white.”

      D&D 3rd Ed, which Mordicai mentions specifically, actually comes out pretty good – unless you’re looking for minority traits in the non-human races.I think the bard’s a half-elf, but we can count him as human if you like; including him, there are five named (I’m excluding the pencil-sketch folks on the racial size comparison chart) human characters illustrated in the introductory chapters.  The bard is probably white (charitably, “olive-skinned”), as is the cleric.  The monk is black; the sorcerer has the angled eyes and darker skin that’s often illustrator short-hand for southeast Asian; the paladin has eyes and a nose that remind me of middle-eastern features.  Maybe they changed the art in a different printing of the books – or maybe the TOR guy’s been underexposed to SCA events with cute, tanned Jewish girls in scalemail?  (pity)So … two of five humans obviously “white,” if you’re sure the bard isn’t just half-black, half-moon elf.   There are two elves, a druid and wizard; the druid is unnaturally pale and guided by a white wolf so I’d assumed she’s from a tundra biome but she doesn’t look Inuit so we can call her white; the wizard is darker skinned than most of the humans.  The half-orc barbarian is … pinkish-grey?  The halfling, dwarf, and gnome are all of European coloration.  So, in the end, that’s, what, five of eleven obviously white, two inhumanly-pigmented that are  possibly modeled more on whites than minorities, so 7 of 11?Per the 2010 US Census, 72% of the population is white.  
      Which is not to say “we’re done, we’ve healed all racial divisions in America,” but … D&D isn’t driving a wedge, and if you don’t count frost-elves and half-orcs as “caucasians” then – compared to real life white folks, who don’t seem to be willing to have black babies – it’s leading the van.

  9. This article needs one of those stock photos of 3 multi-cultural office workers (one black, one white, one asian, at least one female), but done with mythical creatures. 

  10. He has a point. I don’t think there is a nefarious reason why there are few black characters. I bet no one really thought about it. I think in the future the editors should make a more diverse sampling – after all, the point of D&D is to not have your imagination limited. There can be exotic lands where you have the full spectrum of shades and colors to chose from.

    And yes – there ARE black nerds who play the game.

    Finally, the panel from GL #76 seems a bit out of place – I guess I don’t get the correlation per se, But I will point out that Earth’s 2nd Green Lantern, John Stewart, is one of the early black comic book characters and my 2nd favorite Lantern back when I read comics. His run in Mosaic was fantastic.

    1. I took it as a reference towards the fact that even the “juvenile” literature/art-form comic books were tackling racial under-representation in, like, the same decade that D&D was being cobbled together.

    2. I bet no one really thought about it.

      Of course they didn’t.  Why would regular people bother to think about it?

      1. You mean that sarcastically, but it’s actually a pretty good question: if I’m not a racist, and I’m not a minority, why should I be thinking about racism all day?  In a certain light, it’s every bit as weird as a celibate priest lecturing about premarital sex.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t have the conversation, but I am saying I haven’t seen anything said so far that isn’t on the level of an old man who smells like church-closet asking me to tell him about my dirtiest thoughts.

        1. if I’m not a racist, and I’m not a minority, why should I be thinking about racism all day? In a certain light, it’s every bit as weird as a celibate priest lecturing about premarital sex.

          That’s a false equivalency. A privileged person trying to challenge entrenched discrimination is like a celibate priest encouraging you to have a satisfying love and sex life. It’s an act of compassion, but you’ve compared it to an act of shame-based social control.

          1. Yeah, I should think about a thing because someone else does.

            I don’t have to agree, but to deny you thought is to deny you reality.

            If you’re speaking in good faith, it’s not mine to refuse.

            (not at antinous, rather following up antinous)

          2. Of course it’s a false equivalency!  My whole point is that I see a lot more shaming than compassion in the pro-diversity comments.

            (Altho’, technically, I compared it to repressed urges manifesting as creepy voyeurism; Knode picked two black women as his examples and that sets off an alarm in my head.)

          3. My whole point is that I see a lot more shaming than compassion in the pro-diversity comments.

            Are you suggesting that people from groups that are actually oppressed and marginalized need to express compassion for the privileged who are upset about having their status quo jiggled? Because that would be ridiculous.

        2. Because you’re an intelligent person who’s aware of racial inequality, aware of your privilege as a member of the racial majority, and thus aware that you have the power to work to eradicate racism in small but important ways?

          Racism affects all of us, no matter what our skin tone is, but it’s important to remember that it affects some in more painful way than others. 
          I don’t think you meant it that way, but what you said sounds like:  ‘Well, I’m not prejudiced against them, but I’m not one of them, so why should I care?’ That’s the echo of racism talking. You know there’s a problem, but you concede that it concerns a different race than yours. That’s ok- but once you absolve yourself of any attempts to fix the problem, even though it’s happening in your own back yard, then you’ve started acting racist.

          1. David Cross had a joke about the government’s terror alert system: “‘Honey, did you see the terror alert is up to orange again?’ ‘What? No!  What do we do?’ ‘Well… get the bread out of the oven, let’s have dinner.’  ‘What? No, should I be afraid?’ ‘Yes! Be afraid!’ ‘OK, I’m scared, now what?’ ‘OBEY.'”

            Any intelligent person aware of racial inequality, aware of their own privilege, etc, will have thought of that, probably years ago; anyone both intelligent and compassionate will have take steps to mitigate the impact of their privilege on others and eradicate those small but significant influences of racism.

            D&D 3rd Ed, which Knode specifically says is worse than 4th Ed, was, in the chapter containing Knode’s example, more racially diverse (at most 64% white) than the USA currently is (72% white per 2010 census).  So I don’t think his desire is wrong, but everything I know about his examples turns this specific article to crap.

            So I have to ask: Now what?   Take your time – just excuse me while I get the bread out of the oven, there’s enough for everybody.

          2. “I don’t think you meant it that way, but what you said sounds like:  ‘Well, I’m not prejudiced against them, but I’m not one of them, so why should I care?’ That’s the echo of racism talking.”
            No, that’s me saying: tell me why I should take the step from right-action to righteous activist.  This article is poorly written, un-sourced (there are, what, three different versions of D&D 3 – 3, 3.5, 3.5.1? – but he couldn’t be bothered to mention which one he flipped through for examples?), and apparently un-prompted – 4th Ed has been out for almost five years, but we’re only just hearing of the secret racism now?  “You’ve extrapolated a tenuous argument from a moral imperative” is hardly a battle cry; I’m not leaving my 18-month old daughter at home while I march on Washington for a 6% increase in racial diversity in one specific publisher’s fantasy roleplaying rule books.”You know there’s a problem, but you concede that it concerns a different race than yours. That’s ok- but once you absolve yourself of any attempts to fix the problem, even though it’s happening in your own back yard, then you’ve started acting racist.”
            Wait, I can’t absolve myself of *any* attempt to fix a problem?  I have to support every attempt – even the attempts that seem ludicrous?  Or where someone who’s not even a victim of the problem uses the pretense of making a suggestion to set up a straw-man argument?  I mean: “In a nutshell — maybe the makers of D&D should take some of the effort being put into bending over backwards to explain why they don’t need to reflect the diversity in the real world…and put it into a flowering of diversity in their imaginary one.”  But he never quoted or linked to anyone from WotC “bending over backwards!”  He doesn’t name the people who gave him the “litany of excuses for why there are predominantly white people portrayed in roleplaying art,” so for all we know he found a thread on Storm Front or FreeRepublic.

            When a conservative politician tries to justify locking down the internet because anonymous commenters on unnamed internet sites say mean or unethical things, we rise up in righteous outrage.  When Mordicai Knode says it, we give him the front page on multiple websites.

          3. When a conservative politician tries to justify locking down the internet because anonymous commenters on unnamed internet sites say mean or unethical things, we rise up in righteous outrage. When Mordicai Knode says it, we give him the front page on multiple websites.

            Could you provide the citation where he’s a credible threat to shutting down the game? Or any kind of threat. Or making that demand.

            Or are you equating him making a suggestion with the government undertaking totalitarian action? Because that would not be a good faith argument on your part. In fact, I would have to accuse you of being exactly like Hitler.

          4. Datashade:

            apparently un-prompted – 4th Ed has been out for almost five years, but we’re only just hearing of the secret racism now?

            Perhaps you haven’t heard, but WotC is working on 5th edition as we speak. This is a pretty good time to be giving them suggestions about it.

    3. I bet this would be less an issue if there were more black nerds painting the game.

      My bet is that this is residual from when a bunch of white guys asked their white friends to draw pictures for the new game book, when it was first printed in one color, when everyone was still a big racy racist in the 70s.

      in short, I blame Gygax.

      except not at all.

  11. Oh goody, it’s the regularly scheduled “let’s alleviate our white guilt by talking about how racist someone in a position of greater relative authority is” event.

    1.  I’m pretty sick of this “white guilt” bullshit.  I feel like I can support diversity and equality without feeling guilty about anything.

      The weird thing is it’s never the people arguing for diversity that mention guilt or feeling guilty…it’s always the people arguing against it.  Always makes me wonder which party is actually feeling guilty.

      1. That’s the MO of people who complain about political correctness; they want to be able to mouth off, but they Do Not Want you to be able to respond to them.

        1. Do you know what the origin of the phrase “political correctness” was?  Liberals who were describing cynical opportunists, people who adopted the FORM of a political platform without any concern for the SPIRIT; politically correct, not ethically correct.  It’s funny how things change.

          Knode is pointing at WotC and saying “get him! he’s a racist!” and a plurality, if not majority, of people are going along with it.  Only, as I keep saying, Knode didn’t really present any evidence, what evidence he did present is tainted – maybe even actively refuted – by his laziness and ineptitude: he says Ember appears once in the D&D book but not in the later chapters; then he says he never checked the later chapters in Pathfinder!  He says “four out of the eleven classes are represented by people of color” or five if you count the bizarrely-colored gnome; D&D 3’s count would be 5 out of 11 – it’s just that many of the humans, while “hardly pale but neither are they a deep brown in skin tone” – or, if you want to be crass about it, D&D’s characters don’t fit Knode’s ethnic stereotypes well enough for him to characterize them easily! D&D’s count goes up to 7 out of 11 if you count the purple-tinged artic elf and grey-tinged pinkish half-orc as non-white.  He presents strawman arguments against diversity without naming or quoting individuals, then, in his closing summary, attributes all those arguments to WotC!

          His article is terrible, almost every time I re-read it I find something else wrong with it.

          It puts me in mind of the Wizard’s First Rule: people will believe anything that they either wish to be true or dread might be true.

          1. Once again, quotation to support your assertions about Mr. Knode? You’ve said the same thing several times now. Please back it up or make a new argument.

          2. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus His article is linked at the top of this page, and it’s only 1000 words. I didn’t think it was really that much to ask for people to read it.

            Here’s the big deal:  in on paragraph, he says “In the third edition, you’ve got Ember, the human monk — but other than her initial appearance under the class description, she’s absent from the rest of the book.”
            Then a paragraph later: “I wanted to go through the Pathfinder Core Rulebook for the same comparison, but I got as far as the class breakdown and gave up.”

            Ember appears in DD3E in the class breakdown chapter; you can’t say “she shows up in this chapter and then none of the rest, unlike the other book that shows these characters in the same chapter and I didn’t bother to check if the characters appear again” and claim proof of ill intent on behalf of anyone but yourself.

            Of the characters in the same chapter as Ember that I count as non-white, he says “hardly pale but neither are they a deep brown in skin tone,” so, since they’re not *black,* he counts them as *white.*  I’m sorry, but telling someone “your characters are mostly not pure white, but you don’t have enough obviously black characters, so you’re not racially diverse” is literally racist: it is an attitude that discounts the relevance of persons based on their skin color.

            In his last few paragraphs, he says:”I’ve heard a litany of excuses for why there are predominantly white people portrayed in roleplaying art, but I’m not buying it. Maybe your claim is that the people buying the game are primarily Caucasian?””Maybe your claim is that Dungeons & Dragons is based on a fantasy feudal Europe?”Then he finishes: “maybe the makers of D&D should take some of the effort being put into bending over backwards to explain why they don’t need to reflect the diversity in the real world…and put it into a flowering of diversity in their imaginary one.”What effort?!  WotC made no effort to explain why they don’t need to reflect diversity – Mordicai presented rhetorical arguments to that effect himself.  If making up counter-arguments then attributing those arguments to a party of your choice isn’t a straw man, I don’t know what is.  

      2. Pendantry: “guilt” is internal distress; it’s when you feel bad for doing something you think is wrong.  When someone else tries to make you feel bad for something society says is wrong, that’s called “shame.”

        There’s a whole class of people who don’t feel guilt; they’re called “narcissists.”

        Knode’s article is poorly written (his critique of D&D includes the notion that a minority character doesn’t reappear enough later in the book, but then he says *he didn’t go all the way through the Pathfinder book*), full of unsourced third-party arguments (strawman?) and an unsourced assertion that WotC is “bending over backwards” to prove they don’t have to be racially diverse.

        It’s a steaming pile!  There’s no reason anyone who can read, and remember what they’re reading from the start of the article to the end, should have approved of this guy’s work.  The most plausible explanation I have is the phenomena referred to as ‘white guilt.”

  12. Once we, as a species, crack the inequalities of colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability &c &c in real life matters like equal pay or access to jobs, goods and services, then it might be worth our time and energy getting exercised about whether non-white characters are sufficiently represented in a game of the imagination played by a small minority of people, although I suspect that by that time the problem would have sorted itself out.

    1.  Experiencing a more equal world through imagination might be the first step toward seeing it in reality.  So let the people who want to raise such issues raise them. 

      1. Sure talk about it, but put it in perspective. I was just pointing out that if you really wanted to make a difference about minority discrimination, rather than chastising WOTC about whether a 15th level Paladin should be black/white/gay etc. Your time might be more productively spent by writing  a letter to your political representative (for example). It is more immediately pressing if someone does not get a job on the grounds of his or her colour rather than whether a character in a book of fiction is drawn with a black or white face.

        1. It is more immediately pressing if someone does not get a job on the grounds of his or her colour rather than whether a character in a book of fiction is drawn with a black or white face.

          Would we have ended DADT or had gay marriage seriously considered if we hadn’t had Will and Grace?  People have to know that you exist and that there’s a problem and that you deserve equal rights before you can get enough support to change society.

    2. Once we, as a species, crack the inequalities of colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability &c &c in real life

      Yeah, get right on that, would you? How do you think that’s going to happen when the media, including games, still doesn’t show any characters but the Brady Bunch unless they’ve thrown in a few token stereotypes for comic relief?

      1. THIS. There was a comment up there that said people write what they’re familiar with…and I think the question is, why, today, are white people still so very unfamiliar with non-white people that they do not feel comfortable putting them in their games, stories, movies? 

        Why does the ONE black guy on Walking Dead get no lines, and never gets to do anything except fetch things for the white guys? Maybe the script writer just didn’t think it through…but if that’s so, then that’s a perfect example of how we’re not done with racial inequality yet- it’s in our subconscious! It’s making us do things we wouldn’t, as intelligent human beings, do!

        This is NOT a good status quo. This is something we should be working against, not accepting as the natural order of things.

  13. What I see is that there is a problem with WoTC´s D&d:
    There is greater racial and cultural diversity in the monster manual than in the player´s handbook.
    So monster can be as ghetto and cliché as they want but human PC are bland white or slightly colored (funny colors always).

    1. Well, I pulled out my D&D books, and I saw a white half-elf bard, a white human cleric, a black human monk, a middle-eastern human paladin, and an asian human sorceror.

      One elf was dark-skinned, kind of Native American looking, and while the other was so white she was blue (purple, actually) she was a druid accompanied by a big white wolf so I’m assuming she’s some kind of tundra-spirit.  The half-orc isn’t white, he’s … pinky-grey.  The dwarf, halfling, and gnome are all white.

      That’s 5 or 6 out of 11, 7 if you want to be uncharitable.

        1. That’s never been a problem with the characters depicted in fantasy art – especially female characters.  Oooh, ooh, that gives me an idea for a community post on that’ll get me a lot of free popularity!

  14. I think it’s a completely fair proposal to diversify the pictures. However, I’m a little concerned about some of the comments.

    I’ve lived in many countries in the world, and I have to say that America is one of the most naturally diverse countries I’ve ever been in. A lot of Americans think of America as being inherently racist, but it’s actually the opposite (although, in the last four years, with the Tea Parties and all, I’d have to say we’ve been regressing – or something is coming out of the woodwork and it’s really, really, nasty).

    In Europe, I found that a lot of the multiculturalism was “tolerated” because it “had” to be (and I lived in England and France for years, travelled to Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and many other places). I find that Americans who criticize how un-diverse things are in America really have no concept about just how segregated the world is outside of their own borders (excepting, perhaps, Canada).

    The fact is that we’re one of the few countries in the world who make an actual public effort to try to rectify these things. Say what you will, you don’t get any discussion about this sort of thing in, say, the Middle East (not that I’ve seen). You’d probably be ostracized completely if you tried this in Japan or China – either that or completely ignored.

    I’m not saying we don’t have to try and, as I stated, I agree with the proposal. I do, however, think that we really should look at the state of the world, including the horrific racism in Africa as well, before we start self-flagellating about our own “inherent” racism. Yes, it’s true that if you walk out in the street in America, you’ll find most of everything targeting white people in marketing, games, fashion, or mostly anything else. But, again, if you look at it fairly…we’re really not so bad overall.

    Please remember that as we try to build a better society. It won’t do anyone any good to demean our own self-worth and efforts by continually reminding ourselves just how un-diverse we are when we have made so many great strides already in our own country.

    1. Just to add one further thought: It’s fairly easy to see why D&D started out as a “white men’s” portrayal of things. After all, most D&D, back in the day, was set in a medieval European setting. There weren’t exactly many other races living around there at the time. Almost all fighters were men, because that’s just the way history was. I doubt it had anything to do with racist ideals but more with just historical realities.

      If somebody had set up a D&D box set in Africa, I doubt you’d have had many white tribes running around. Or black clans in an Asian setting. When D&D first came out (before my time, but I’ve seen boxed sets) it was all European based. European castles, armor, society, kings, legends – they’re all based originally on white people in medieval Europe.

      Of course, people will say that campaigns involve entire worlds now, but that’s mostly because D&D has evolved into world-wide campaigns. Before then, it wasn’t like that at all. Most of D&D started with something like Arthurian legends and, please correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t recall too many “Moors” playing key parts in King Arthur’s court. There was a green guy in one story, but I hardly think that qualifies.

      Like I said, D&D has evolved and I have absolutely no problem with them diversifying the characters. There weren’t, for example, many women adventurers in most European legends either. But, again, I don’t think it was inherently racist at all. It was mostly just because of the legends and myths which reflected that certain society.

      1. “… I don’t recall too many “Moors” playing key parts in King Arthur’s court.”

        Palamedes, one of the Knights of the Round Table, was a Saracen.  Converted, of course.

        1. Thank you for teaching me something new. =) I had no idea and I find it very interesting. =)

          The original point still stands, however. =) The myths, legends, and real society were mostly exclusively “white”. Again, I agree with the proposal for diversity because it is, after all, a fantasy game. But if it had been originally set in, say, Feudal Japan, I wouldn’t have expected an instant appearance of other races. I think it would take just as much time. =)

        2. Except that Moors and Saracens are exactly synonymous. Palamedes was supposed to be the son of Esclabor, lord of Babylon.

      2. One quibble: they’re all based on white people in early modern Europe. It’s most obvious from the equipment lists: arquebuses [15th century and on], full plate armor [14th century and on], or the selection of swords and polearms. It’s not exactly suitable for, say, an Arthurian campaign.

      3. (Apologies if double-posting here.)

        You make an interesting point: Arabs and North Africans are deeply intertwined with European history and legends, but we’ve generally forgotten they were there. In the case of Muslim Andalusia, there was a vibrant and powerful Muslim, largely Arab and Berber, empire on the European subcontinent long before “Europe.” Eventually, it was displaced by newly-assertive native Europeans (and there was a brief renascence, though certainly not a Renaissance, under the brutally intolerant Almoravids), but Muslims can be found in any number of medieval legends, from the propagandistic Chanson de Roland to the rather poorly-researched Arab knights in the Nibelungenlied. Likewise, medieval Europeans were in close and frequent contact with various other peoples, such as the Turkic Ottomans, powerful East African merchant kingdoms (the “other” seafaring powers met by the Portuguese during the early Age of Exploration), and a number of different Mongol hordes.Today, the sort of cod-medieval world that D&D and ren-faires inhabit is a pastiche of various 19th-century writers and soi disant historians. The actual reality of the medieval world was considerably more varied and interesting than you’ll get from Medieval Times.

        1. Those are excellent points and quite true. I’m definitely not a medieval historian but now that you mention it, I do recall more of what you are talking about. I re-read your comment a few times now and I’m starting to wonder if the racism we generally attribute to these periods was mostly developed later on in our history?

          Again, I’m no historian and I’m way out of my league here so I’d rather defer to the experts. I’m fairly sure that a Turk or Moor would have definitely raised local eyebrows in the marketplace for most people (as we know it did with Jews who were also seen as “outsiders”). But you definitely have something there. After all, the Romans had far more people from eastern and southern provinces wandering around, and Medieval society was constructed on the remnants of that society in a sense.

        2.  One thing I distinctly remember from visiting the SoCal Medieval Times as a teenager was the arrival of an “ambassador from Cordoba” (or one of its successor kindgoms), who brought an stallion as a diplomatic gift for the “King” and performed feats of horsemanship for him and us stew-gobbling yokels.

          Plus I got to root for the Green Knight of Leon (where my grandmother’s side of the family has origins) in the jousting, even though the show’s storyline pegged him as the heel. Mu-hu-ha-ha!

    2. ” I…. think that we really should look at the state of the world… before we start self-flagellating about our own “inherent” racism.”

      An honest examination of yourself is not self-flaggelation.

      A two page blog comment is.

    3. I’ve lived in many countries in the world, and I have to say that America is one of the most naturally diverse countries I’ve ever been in. A lot of Americans think of America as being inherently racist, but it’s actually the opposite (although, in the last four years, with the Tea Parties and all, I’d have to say we’ve been regressing – or something is coming out of the woodwork and it’s really, really, nasty).

      Yeah, that’s…not very accurate.  There is not necessarily a contradiction between diversity and racism.  New Orleans had an incredibly diverse population throughout the reconstruction and Jim Crow periods but that population was sharply stratified according to race.

      1. I agree with that completely. I never said we were even close to a perfect society, nor do I think we don’t have a long way to go. I just happen to think that our society is, in a sense, far more advanced on this topic than most other societies in the world which I’ve experienced and seen. It doesn’t mean that blacks, asians, or latinos are treated as equal by everyone in our society. I can’t think of a single minority which doesn’t have stories to tell about being treated as less than equal. And of course it entirely depends upon where you live as well in many cases.

        It’s just that after traveling around many countries, and having lived in some different ones as well for a few years at a time, I find that we tend to be a bit sheltered about how bad it can truly be in most places in the world outside of our borders. There are many cultures in which racism is blatant and open with absolutely no excuse given whatsoever, and few of those countries are even having a discussion about it. We are having that discussion and have been for a number of decades now, which I find to be a good thing. =)

        After all, how many countries outside of America and some in Western Europe can claim to even have some sort of Affirmative Action program in government or business? I’m definitely not an expert, but my guess would be very few. Imagine trying to start one in Egypt for the Copts, or in Syria for Jews or Druze, or Japan for Koreans, or in China for any number of other races. I just don’t see many people working at it the way we have been. We’ve got a long way to go in some cases, but at least we’ve started the journey. Most societies in the world haven’t even begun the first steps.

        1. Yes, but I think a lot of this has to do with the ways in which US history is very different than the histories of most European countries.  There is no part of US history that does not feature some despised immigration of a particular ethnicity which slowly becomes assimilated only to end up despising the very next batch of immigrants.  I don’t really know enough about Europe to say for sure but I’d guess that US culture has internalized a lot more strategies for dealing with immigration of different ethnicities than has Europe – solely because US culture has had more experience with it.

          I don’t think this makes the culture any less racist.  I think you’re right that there’s been more conversation and action on it in the US than elsewhere but I think that’s as much out of necessity as anything else.

          I also don’t think there’s actually been any recent uptick in racism in the US.  There’s been an uptick in race baiting which I think will tend to make racists more outspoken about their racism, but there’s very specific reasons for the race baiting too.

          1. Yeah, like I mentioned with the Tea Parties. The last four years have been absolutely atrocious and prove to me that we have a lot further to go than we thought we did before Obama’s Presidency. I think that half the country has gone completely mad, and much of their “criticism” of Obama has overt racist overtones which is utterly repugnant to me.

  15. How is this even an issue? It’s an easy fix. Take the list of characters that need to be illustrated for the book. Asign some races to them; “that’s one’s black, here’s some indian characters, these people are chinese, that design is going to have arabian infleuences” etc etc. Then draw a line down the middel; all characters above the line are women, all below are men.
    Done. Then send it off to concept art.
    Will take you all of 5 minutes and cost you zero dollars.

    1. Ok, D&D 5th edition Players hand book is coming out. They have 8 character classes, and 9 races. 4 of those races are roughly humanoid.

      3 human images for the classes,
      4 for the races. 

      And others misc that will portray the earlier characters

      You’re an art director, tell us how YOU want the 7 humans to be broken down.

      1. I think the focus on the iconic characters is misguided. There are lots of opportunities for artwork beyond the characters in the PHB — module covers, for instance. Mordicai didn’t solely call for a more diverse “main cast”.

        1. Except, his justification for failing D&D 3rd Ed was that a named class-example character in the early chapters wasn’t re-illustrated enough later in the book (even tho’ in later examples the characters are usually circular token on a map-grid, or simply text in a “word problem” example of gameplay mechanics; AND even tho’ he admits he didn’t check Pathfinder’s later chapters).

          1. I think you’re lending undue weight to Mordicai’s criticisms of 3E, which he admits in the article he only examined cursorily. I think 3E did a surprisingly good job of presenting racial diversity, and agree that Mordicai probably isn’t being fair to the designers.

            But his argument boils down to, “I was disappointed in 4E, and want WotC to be better in 5E. Along the way, I glanced at some other editions to see what they did, but admittedly not in a very thorough way.” He only devoted half of a paragraph to 3E — if he got that bit wrong, it doesn’t speak to his larger point about the direction he’d like to see going from 4E to 5E.

  16. The really odd thing is that when they were planning the latest edition (4th) they talked a bit about including diversity.

    But they failed. Weird. It’s not so hard, really.

    1. Which is my other problem with Knode’s post: he claims that WotC has “bent over backwards” to NOT be diverse or exclude minorities.

  17. I agree with the sentiment that D&D should be inclusive, and I think it’s something that WotC have done fairly well with the 3e+ games.

    From the 3.5e Player’s Handbook:”Thanks to their penchant for migration and conquest, and to their short life spans, humans are more physically diverse than other common races. Their skin shades range from nearly black to very pale, their hair from black to blond (curly, kinky, or straight), and their facial hair (for men) from sparse to thick. Plenty of humans have a dash of non-human blood, and they may demonstrate hints of elf, orc, or other lineages. Members of this race are often ostentatious or unorthodox in their grooming and dress, sporting unusual hair-styles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, body piercings and the like.”

    From that, I’ve always imagined human cultures where skin colour, gender etc. are not really something people consider. I don’t either. I don’t recall it ever being a concern in any game I’ve played.

  18. Hey, Cory, please add an update line to this post! That’s a Pathfinder RPG illo, and as others have commented, they definitely deserve credit for the diversity of their characters.

  19. Please don’t forget *People of Flavor* in the illustrations.  

    oh, and coloring books are racist.  J/K.  I always figured the people were left “blank” so you could color them in however you wanted.  Problem solved.

  20. 1.  Silly me for thinking a piece leading off with “A Modest Proposal . . .” was going to be, you know, Swiftian satire.

    2.  I can understand wanting to see characters that “look like me.” But I also have to agree that it’s a very slippery slope from an approximation of realistic demographics to the sort of forced “fake rainbow” effect mentioned in comments above.  Which is exemplified at its worst, in my eyes, by such character sets as the Disney Fairies line of merchandise.  One white blonde, one white brunette, one white redhead, one Asian, one Hispanic, one black.  You can argue they’re reaching out to as many little girls as possible, but it’s hard not to feel they’re reaching out to as many wallets as possible.

    1. Of course Disney is reaching out to as many wallets as possible, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the right thing and the profitable thing were more often the same.

  21. I certainly agree that there could be more racial diversity in D&D’s artwork (in the written product, no such effort is necessary, IMHO).  It should be noted that efforts HAVE been made and it should be acknowledged that improvements continue apace.

    The 3E fighter Regdar, for example was intended by the original artist, Todd Lockwood, to be racially ambiguous:  “I knew that a human fighter would be adopted first. For that reason, I intended him to be as racially ambiguous as possible–he should look like he could belong to any race, or none at all.”  

    His female iconic wizard (Naull) was Asian:  “This sketch was another effort on my part to introduce racial variety into the game. It was an ideal which was roundly endorsed in concept, but for which we had to fight in application. fantasy worlds tend to be filled with white people.”  Certainly, his representation of the 3E rogue seemed to move more and more away from being ‘white’, IMHO.

    I think there’s also a challenge that in the context of D&D, races are actually different races, not just slightly different variations of the same race.  The game muddies these waters with cross-breeding running rampant (particularly in 3E, which took it to a new level entirely).  We should see more variation of skin tones in the artwork in D&D, but it can be problematic to determine the right approach, I would guess.  Certainly many of the comments in this thread make it clear that not everyone even agrees on the right approach or degree.

  22. I just came here to post a message of support for crazy mustaches.

    Cult of the Stache, represent!

    All the other good points were taken already, anyway.

  23. Here’s a solution: Create an RPG set during a fantasy version of the Bantu expansion. Leopard skin robes, zebra rawhide shields, leaf-bladed spears, datura-induced battle rage, ancient kingdoms and crude invaders, piles of gold and slave markets, vicious improbable beasts, northern horsemen, tiny forest men, and a strange, yellow-skinned southern race of peaceful nomadic foragers. What more could you want from a fantasy game?

    It’s all very awesome, and all you have to do is add the magic-is-real element. You can play as white or Asian if you want, but please try to come up with a plausible back story for what your pale blonde Zulu warrior is doing in a world based on 12th c. sub-Saharan Africa.

    1. That’s a great idea, but it’s not a solution. There have been plenty of campaign settings set in non-Western locales — Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur, etc. — but they’re marked as “exotic” and thus don’t address the basic issue that white is the default for generic fantasy characters. If the art director says “paint me a wizard” two dozen times and they get back two dozen white men in robes, that’s not only kinda dull, it perpetuates the idea that white is the unmarked state for generic / customizable fantasy settings like D&D.

      1. Isn’t the problem that “the default for generic fantasy characters” is Europe and Byzantium after the fall of Rome”? That’s what I was getting at in suggesting that of course you can play as Caucasian in a Bantu-themed RPG. How could that possibly be unusual? <– sarcasm

        When I said it was a "solution," I meant, "Create a fantasy world where Europeans or Asians are highly improbable, and require some kind of special pleading in order to exist."

        I don't think you can just add black characters to D&D and call it a day, because the assumptions that underlay that world are Eurocentric assumptions. Any Black kid with an interest in RPGs is going to feel just as self-conscious as a Black mage as she feels as a Black American. She's never going to be unmarked, and she's never to going to be completely comfortable.

        Besides, anyone who's ever used any reasonably sophisticated software knows that the defaults are there to be changed.

        (NB: IANA Gamer. My interest in fantasy fiction peaked prior to the introduction of D&D in the 1970s. This is because I am old. But, now that I’ve written the comment above, I might just play if there were a D&D: Bantu Expansion Pack.)

        1. The historicity argument holds no water for me, for one very good reason: women. RPGs have no problem whatsoever presenting female characters on an equal footing with male characters — for thirty years, they’ve said, “Screw historicity! In our pseudo-medieval world, men and women are, by default, equal.” That’s more fun, and more inclusive.

          There were bitter arguments in the pages of Dragon magazine about it, and horrifically comically “realistic” game systems with tables for baby production and rape percentages, but obviously ahistorically liberated female adventurers are the norm today, in a perfectly unmarked way. There’s no reason at all game designers can’t say “Screw historicity!” again for racial inclusivity, and for the very same reasons.

          1. Well, this is a situation where IANA Gamer comes up, because I wasn’t aware of the gender situation in RPGs.

            OTOH, there’s plenty of evidence for women warriors and adventurers in African history, see e.g.

            It still seems to me that what you need is a fantasy framework that’s not built on European models, and that includes all the “races” of monsters and prodigies. Once you introduce this kind of thinking, you’re plunged in Eurocentrism, and white folk become the default.

            The Eurasian model of monsters and prodigies breaks down once you head into animism and shamanism. You can deracinate the Wendigo or Anansi, and turn them into monsters, but that’s just another kind of post-colonial appropriation.

            Here’s a thought: It’s not a problem to be worked out in Boing-Boing comments. It’s a problem to be worked by people who are not us, in places and under circumstances we can’t imagine, because of who we are and how we came to be here.

            We (and here I clearly mean “I”) are not the ones to solve this. That just turns it into another game of White Man’s Burden.

            The world is changing faster than we realize, and an inclusive fantasy role-playing world will probably come from somewhere else. Of course, the whole idea of fantasy role-playing as a recreation is an avocation that comes from a position of privilege. 

            What happens next depends more on the shifting economic fortunes of the world in the coming decades than it does on any determined effort on the part of reformers.

          2. Ernest Valdemar 
            He’s wrong about the gender situation, BTW.  Earlier versions of D&D gave explicitly different stats for females – to be fair, I shouldn’t say “different,” because they were inferior: women got penalties to strength, sometimes constitution I think, with, typically, no bonuses to compensate.

          3. Datashade: That’s why I said “for thirty years”, and mentioned the angsty debates in the pages of Dragon. The earliest editions of D&D did indeed distinguish between the genders, but that was dropped in the 80s. It’s an argument for social inclusiveness driving changes to RPGs, not against.

            Anyway, having a strength cap is not the same as accurately representing the lives of women in the middle ages — they’ve always been free to be clerics, paladins, or whatever else they wanted. (Edit: Actually, that might not be true — I seem to recall a mention of gender-based class limits in the very early days, but whether that was in a rulebook or someone’s suggestion in the Forum I don’t know. Didn’t last long either way, anyway.)

        2. That’s your privilege showing.

          Ugly issue: the descendants of former slaves – what I’ll assume comprises the majority of black Americans – don’t identify as “former Bantu” or whatever, because the  North American slaveowners spent something like 500 years willfully obliterating literacy, culture, and community among their black slaves and those slaves’ children, to destroy their connection to home and history.

          The people responsible for that are all dead, but they never really admitted it, and certainly didn’t repent, atone, or make reparations for what they did.  Then, once the ink was dry on the 14th Amendment, all white Americans, not just the former slaveowners, spent the next hundred years willfully obliterating their memories of any harm that had ever occurred to those former slaves.

          I’m not sure what could’ve been done differently, and there’s no room here to even start speculation.   Regardless, the damage was done, IS done, and that damage leaves the larger part of the majority completely unable to talk to the larger part of the minority on almost anything like culture, community, and history.  

          We’re still on different drinking fountains, in no small part  because people like to keep trying to change the white fountain to work better for black people.

          My problem with Mordicai isn’t that he called out what he thought was racism, it’s that he did a really lazy job of it.

  24. Anyone else notice that the character they have the portrait of there isn’t from Dungeons & Dragons, but rather it’s competitor/little sister Pathfinder? 

    1. Yes, Knode showed her as a “good example” from pathfinder, and showed D&D3E’s Ember as a “bad example,” because Ember appears in the classes chapter but never again.  He then goes on to explain how he didn’t bother to flip through the later chapters of the Pathfinder books (meaning he never checked for recurances).

  25. I have a set of modest proposals too.

    Adding PoC characters shouldn’t just be a matter of a ‘skin tone’ checkbox, they need to be culturally integrated too.

    Rules for physically disabled characters are a far more pressing concern, as I’d imagine they make up a greater proportion of the player base.  This should be much easier to incorporate with range penalties and perhaps hearing or intuition bonuses.

    When I was 12 one of my evangelical friends was stopped from playing by his parents because there was quite a lot of content relating to demonic creatures in the Monster Manual. Again, these players could be catered for by removing references that are offensive to religion without significantly altering the flavour of the game.

    Since the game is published with an age suitability of 12+ it would be worth considering the imposition of penalties on characters who engage in immoral conduct. Again, to minimise the impact on the game world, a background fiction could be inserted to account for this.

    And finally, as a concession to the 3+ billion people outside the anglophone world, some kind of foreign language content should be included, perhaps starting with spell -casting languages which should sound more like Greek or Farsi anyway.

    With a couple of simple alterations, D&D could easily be retro-fitted to resemble the real world we live in.

    1. Removing the demons and devils to kowtow to the christian right was one of the most shameful and stupid episodes in D&D’s history. Do you suppose we want more of that?

  26. Originally, scottbp had said something along the lines of: “when I see someone say things like ‘having no minorities will offend minorities’ and then ‘white people can identify with non-white characters’ I feel like that’s a contradiction – that they’re saying white people should have to work to identify with other groups but those other groups shouldn’t have to work to identify with whites.’ Then (a mod?) erased it.

    Those two aren’t necessarily contradictory: “an almost utter lack of any non-white examples will offend non-whites,” versus “white people are not offended by a reduction in the number of white  people.” 

    Hell, every time one of these threads comes up, I start actively daydreaming about a reduction in white people.

  27. SO is the writer saying that white players are better equipped to ignore matters of race?

    Of course white players are better equipped to ignore matters of race. In the US, white people are not constantly reminded of their race every time they leave their houses.

    Do you honestly not see why a black teenager would say “Hey, I wish there were more people that looked like me in the art” when it would be nonsensical for a white teenager to say the same thing? Did you never hear Nichelle Nichols talk about the letters she got from black NASA engineers who said they chose that career because they saw a dark face on Star Trek and realized it was possible?

  28. Actually I didn’t remove it, and I am pretty shocked it was removed! I was just positing a thought… which was actually ably refuted by jere7my below, what was so corrosive about my comment that meant it had to be removed?

     -original reply-
    Not necessarily contradictory but surely pretty contradictory?

  29. One of the interesting things about Nichelle Nichols role was that her character didn’t have to be black, it could have been played by anybody, which made her portrayal more effective at that time in the US. Thus proving your point.

    What I don’t like is the fake rainbow effect where you have your list of prescribed genders and races to represent.

  30. What I don’t like is the fake rainbow effect

    How, exactly, is representing the real demographic diversity of the population a fake effect? Or do you live somewhere where you never have to be exposed to anyone who doesn’t look like you?

  31. What list?  No one’s talking about a list.

    PROTIP: put forth at least a modicum of effort to not appear obviously racist, and NOBODY WILL HAND YOU THAT LIST.

  32. @boingboing-b0c3d3c164e7b5b3efdc4b6083a9eca1:disqus  – “I don’t like being told that I must.”

    You’re not being told that you must. You can change the channel, or go outside, or do any other thing. Complaining, also a choice.

  33. (EDIT: Apologies, Soctt. I thought underwelcome comments were disemvoweled, not deleted).

    No, not contradictory at all.

    I”ve never been to a movie theater to see a movie starring Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, etc, and seen the seats totally bereft of white people.  White people show up for Book of Eli and I Am Legend.  

    BUT when studios tried to cast white actors for the main lineup of The Last Airbender or Prince of Persia, it offended a lot of people.

  34. The signal to noise ratio of that comment was, in my moderatorial opinion, unacceptably low.  Too many talking points delivered with too much disdain.

  35. Therein lies the question – who is D&D’s audience? If it were the UK, then 85% would be white. If it’s the whole world, it would be only 50%. As D&D is from the US, it’s 72% white, so I guess at least a 1 in 4 minority monster ratio would be representative.

  36. @boingboing-655ad7dfb2836358e477735ea301808a:disqus , I see what you mean, but I think it needs clarifying — it’s not the monsters that are the problem — those have always been in technicolor in fantasy settings; it’s the people. As it stands, you seem to be unwittingly implying that minorities are monsters, which doesn’t look good.

    But indeed, if one-in-four or so of the humans in the art in a roleplaying game (for a western market) were minorities, I don’t think anyone would be complaining about a lack of diversity. Take Skyrim, for instance: by far the majority of characters are white, because it’s set in the homeland of the Nords, who are viking-inspired, so white; and it’s occupied by the Imperials, who are also white; but there’s still dozens of dark-skinned Redguard knocking around, enough to make it clear that the creators weren’t oblivious to the idea of non-white people.

  37. The fake rainbow effect I am referring to is like the 90s kids shows where they always had “one of each.”
    Representing real demographic diversity is great, but telling artists what they have to draw, write, sing, etc strikes me as bad.
    But that is just my opinion. I like the idea of trying to understand other cultures and points of view, I don’t like being told that I must.

  38. In response to EvilTerran. I did not mean to imply minorities are monsters. Good grief, no. Apologies if anyone read it that way. As for positive role models, Greg Morris in Mission Impossible, was the one that impressed me as a young kid growing up in London. 

  39. Don’t worry, I was pretty confident you didn’t mean to imply that, hence “unwittingly” — I know many roleplayers say “monster” when they mean “character with stats in the book” — I just wanted to pre-empt anyone overzealously looking for spurious reasons to accuse you of bigotry.

  40. OK, so I am obviously failing to make any sense here. 

    I was trying to refer to such things as 90s kids shows where they had each kid from a different race, which seemed fake to me, and suffered because of that.

    I obviously failed.

  41. @boingboing-b0c3d3c164e7b5b3efdc4b6083a9eca1:disqus  ”
    I was trying to refer to such things as 90s kids shows where they had each kid from a different race, which seemed fake to me, and suffered because of that.”
    People who produce children’s programming often seem to assume kids are morons, although that particular misapprehension is perhaps not unique to those responsible for *children’s* programming.  Regardless, I must insist: if you watch a show about five people and all five people are of different racial backgrounds and *that seems fake to you,* then you are either a racist, geographically isolated, or very sheltered.

  42. No, if I make a foolish comment, and someone refutes it, then it should remain on show so that I can do better next time (or not… see below)

  43. Uh, not really dude (about the Drow). They’ve never been portrayed as resembling African Americans (or of African descent). The fact is, D&D has predominently been based on western medieval culture.  Until the advent of Oriental Adventures, all real-world, non-white races were considered “exotic”in play.

  44. Read your first sentence again. It says “cursed with black skin for countless sins.”

    …okay, I was going to say more about how screwed up you are if you think that counts, but the rest of your comment just says troll.

  45. 50% of your reply is a sarcastic question.  Moreover, you’re not opening your mouth in relation to the rhetorical problems (to put it mildly) of the original post.  Pretty uneven policing of others’ comments there.

  46. good point, by that stage I think I was just grumpy, comments disappearing, being called a racist… I found myself on a weird side of an argument.

  47. @boingboing-b0c3d3c164e7b5b3efdc4b6083a9eca1:disqus happens to the best of us, usually when we think we’re the best of us. 

  48. Finding a real-life analog to the drow works much better if you go along religious, rather than racial lines; like the Protestants vs Catholics in Ireland, only one side is objectively evil instead of both sides being well-intentioned but too prone to violence and indifferent to loss of life to be called “good.”

  49. DataShade,

    You’ve made 16 out of the last 20 comments in this thread. Please…..go have some pie or something.

Comments are closed.