D & D got woke and that's good because you should have all been playing that way (or not if you didn't prefer))

Did we have a thread about this?

My summary: Woke roleplaying is basically good, old rulebook style had a lot of shit, feel free to roleplay however YOU like.

D & D with evil ugly monsters is shit for story telling and for game play unless you’re a fuckwit or in a hurry (both of which are fine).

More nuanced worlds are better. Traditional ugly, evil by nature, “other” baddies were:

  • racist (not being sensitive, the idea of an ugly, inherently evil other race we need to kill because they will kill us if we don’t is a human weakness)

  • Boring, cliched, offering fewer opportunities for plot development.

Also alignments always sucked and never worked for real motivations or competing ideas of good or evil.

And I don’t mean maybe the bad can occasionally turn out to be good or vise versa, I mean actually almost none of the original fantasy alignment crap was good or interesting and we can have better games.

Extra “Hoo”.

The games are what you make them.
BTW–you can play monsters, as PCs now.

That doesn’t cure racism, unless their rights and backgrounds are considered equally valid.

And you always could in various systems and homegrown varients.

Humans and orcs fighting each other is not analogous to humans and humans fighting each other.

And while “Let’s kill all the orcs just because they’re orcs” has always been a possible playstyle (and of course still is now), it’s not one I’ve ever actually seen in 30+ years of playing.

How do you mean? It’s meant to be analogous, so nerds get the idea.

My favorite bit of irony is that 5e took Gnolls and changed them from a humanoid race to insane slavering plague-balls cursed by their maker to do nothing but insanely run around biting shit until they explode into more bitey insane plague-balls without chance of redemption and then hand-waved it with “Weeellll… gnolls should really be considered fiends now…” (they’re not; they’re classified as humanoids).

But if your orcs are evil dudes whose society of evil dudes was shaped by being literally manifested into being by an evil deity then… racism! Bad story-telling!

But WotC made the solution clear: Take any races you want to be bad-guys and just strip off their pseudo-human status and call them monsters instead.

I’m not sure what “woke roleplaying” is, but yes, the generic alignment system in AD&D is pretty much worthless as a roleplaying aid. That is because Dungeons & Dragons grew out of medieval miniature wargaming, and whatever background mythology and culture it had was artlessly tacked to the system. It’s character racial profiles were all essentially hacked wholesale out of Tolkien, and the bestiaries (the Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio) were largely drawn from pre-medieval Greek, Norse, and Celtic folklore along with some fantasy tropes that pervaded modules of the day and a healthy dose of rebranded Cthulhu Mythos.

How much this contributes to “boring, cliched, offering fewer opportunities for plot development,” depends on how the GM runs the game and how the players respond. Certainly, just populating a labyrinth or mine with random goblins and orcs for the characters to filet in a progressive murder-spree isn’t narratively interesting in and of itself (although the occasional dungeon crawl can be entertaining, particularly if it involves a lot of other challenges to survival) but “evil ugly monsters” is an enduring challenge in film, television, novels, plays, and roleplaying because it provides a face for the general fear of the unknown and uncontrollable.

Of course, if you are tying this to some specific racial prejudice with a patina of deniability that is not good, but nobody wants to seek adventure in a world where dragons breathe cotton candy and trolls are just misunderstood geniuses with bad skin. There are plenty of roleplaying settings that stem out of explicitly racist origins (specifically Call of Cthulhu based upon the work of H.P. Lovecraft, who was shockingly bigotted even by the standards of the day) but that doesn’t mean you need to play them that way; one of the best supplements for that game is Harlem Unbound by Chris Spivey, and I guess it is about as “woke” as it gets. And even in settings where bigotry and prejudice are part of the tapestry, that doesn’t mean the players and GM have to endorse it to play in it. It is entirely possible to play a bigoted character in a way that doesn’t not promote prejudice as a positive ideology (although it takes nuance and care to do so). The bigger problem in RPGs is the appropriation and misrepresentation of real world cultures in a way that is actually offensive.

Personally, I think Dungeons & Dragons (all editions, all settings) is a poor system for actual roleplaying, and isn’t even very good for the mechanics of combat and other in-wiorld actions. But then, I started out playing Runequest, which was from the beginning a system built around a pre-existing mythological world (Greg Stanfford’s Glorantha) which is independent of any specific real world cultural references, and actually has its own cosmology that isn’t a transparent riff on the Greek pantheon.


I have enjoyed watching the collective whinging of gamers as various game companies have made efforts to take their small stabs at the systemic part of systemic racism by updating rulesets and clarifying positions.

There’s always been this weird category of gamers who feel that the only way to play an RPG is exactly as written with no deviation whatsoever (including the publishing of new editions) and, following that logic, any changes that they don’t like become a personal attack. They are the Karens of the gaming world.

Anyway, removing the whole “most sentient races are irredeemably evil except for the occasional ‘good one’ like Drizzt” is a good move. They already got rid of “all half-orcs are the product of rape-by-conquest” and I’m sure there was plenty of indignant outrage over that.

Of course you can play how you want to play, but I wonder what people who think that a fantasy race/species should have little or no effect on the character of individuals in it think of the stereotyping of sealions in the famous cartoon? The stereotyping of fantasy races is even less stringent, and less explicitly a metaphor for current social groups, even though it definitely comes out of a Medieval tradition of quests against irredeemably othered groups. But some people defend the lady’s original prejudiced remark that she “just doesn’t like sealions” by saying that “that’s just the way sealions are. So she was right to say she doesn’t like them.” Why can you have a fantasy metaphor that explicitly is a roman a clef for contemporary groups wherein someone gets a free pass at stereotyping them, but not in a setting that is more just a story rather than a metaphor for real life so-called “races” and social groups?

You’ll have a really hard time convincing me if you allow people to play a FANTASY role playing as a form as escapism and a hobby where the GM creates his campaign where orcs, goblins and gnolls are most of the time kill on site because it’s his FANTASY world and of that it will indoctrinate me to go out into the real world and hate < insert real life people >

As usual that’s low resolution thinking, think high resolution - good vs. evil.

Back in the 80’s religious people thought D&D was evil as well. Considering mathematics, and coding is considered racist now I guess it’s no surprise our hobbies are next.

It’s always been interesting to me, since the eighties when I started playing, to explore different cultural norms; and I’m fine with giving different psychologies to different species, just like real-world species have different psychologies. What gets fucked up is when the species turns into a racist stereotype. That’s both gross and boring.

So sahuagin can be a supremely aesthetic species that sees every other species as calories. Hill giants can be territorial loners who see themselves as absolute rulers of their domain. Orcs can be a highly regimented militarized society with a religious aversion to any sort of deception. As long as you’re pulling in interesting traits that move things beyond cookie-cutter stereotypes, I think it’s okay.

It’s not about being able to draw a line that says “Fantasy Race A = Real Life Group B.” Systemic racism is about the millions of little things interwoven in our system, any one of which could be reasonably dismissed so long as we’re willing to ignore the forest in favor of the trees.

The issue at play here isn’t the idea that any specific race is analogous to any specific group, although that’s certainly the case in older fantasy. The issue is the idea that it’s okay to default certain physical, mental, and ethical traits to distinct groups of people. That’s a shitty lesson to bake into the subtext of a truly wonderful hobby.

You might rightly say that a good parent would ensure their kid doesn’t draw those lessons from their gaming experience, and you’d be right, but it’s even better to obviate the need for those lessons in the first place. It’s even better to not bake it in at all.

This is why we talk about ‘dismantling’ systemic racism. It’s a process that involves addressing lots and lots and lots of little shit that’s built up over decades. This is one of the little things. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for change.

And, of course, Rule Zero is even older than D&D. Play how you want. DMs can still make rapey orcs and evil drow. There’s no governing board for tabletop gaming regulation. But they can understand that they’re rapey or evil because they are making them that way, not because the game design is dictating it to them.

Goes both ways though. People who whine that their level one dwarf can’t have the same +INT bonus as an elf even though “He was raised by elves!” and weirdly need the rules on character generation to be boiled down into homogeneous mush before this can happen instead of, you know, talking to the DM and trading their +STR bonus for +INT like a normal person would do.

“There’s no rules for my precious +STR halfling idea? Let me talk to D&D’s manager!”

There are now. Tasha’s gave you the ability to set racial bonuses on stats however makes sense for your character. You can have a clumsy halfling who is really intelligent if you want. If you halfling has been a gym rat, maybe they do have +2 to Strength.

I know, that was the point. There was no NEED for rules for it since any half-intelligent person could have noodled out “I’ll talk to my DM and swap these stats” on their own but people still managed to cry about how there weren’t official rules for smart dwarfs until WotC wrote some. It’s funny how the retort to them is “Well, you can just play how you want!” when this literally came from people unable to look at the rules and say “Eh, I’ll just play how I want”

The value is in removing the subtextual baggage that goes along with the original official rules.

And I mostly agree with you about players being just as unable to bend and take rule zero into account, but I have no problem with WotC codifying certain aspects of “I’ll just play how I want” to strengthen that framework.

Lost my edit window:

If we take “I’ll just play how I want” to its silly conclusion, there’s no need for books at all, let alone new editions. The job of a publisher is deciding how, when, and why to add new stuff.

While that’s true, I think that tweaking the +1’s on racial stats in select cases is a long, long way from rulebook anarchy.

Which gets at the increased uptake in the Session Zero idea. I don’t want terminal PC death. We’ve been playing with pretty much the same core group of people for nearly 20 years, and we’ve lost two members (cancer and suicide). There are a lot of rules that have terminal death - face a beholder, watch your character become a pile of ash. With our group, those rules get changed. My youngest just ran into a RAW DM (with some of the issues of non-neurotypicality that lead to rule following) - who didn’t understand that there is a lot of trauma for a 21 year old who started playing DnD at six with us - and has been to two funerals for their DnD friends already. (Let’s face it, most college age students haven’t lost many friends - they lost another friend to suicide their Senior year as well - Death is something that happens to old people when its time, not the guy who went out of his way to get you mango licorice for the table each week).

Its good - people shouldn’t be triggered when they are trying to have fun. And that may be “woke” but its also just how you should treat your friends.

(I have been running Dungeon of the Mad Mage for two years - with the theme that goblins are an oppressed race. I did make our Drow Nazis, though.)

To us, D&D is a framework.

Which is how it should be done. If you have special circumstances, you bang out some house rules around those circumstances. No one wants perma-death? Then you don’t include that and make the game more strictly about the story. You want a goblin PC who was raised by ogres and taught him how to get ripped? Then you work out some stats for it. You don’t need to cry to WotC until they add “no perma-death” rules into the next book just because you couldn’t hack it without seeing it on glossy paper.