Thursday, January 15, 2009

D&D and Racism

Everybody turn to page 18 in your Players Handbook (the real one). Look at the Racial Preferences table. Dungeons and Dragons includes, and very much promotes, racism.

Now everyone make an angry or pouty face (your choice), curl your fist up at the computer screen, and shout, “Damn you, racism! You’re bad and icky!”

(A note: I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be one of those posts that get read by people that don’t regularly read this blog, so I should mention that when I say “Dungeons and Dragons,” I mean pre-1989 D&D. I don’t want to hear about 3rd, or 4th edition (or non-core 2nd edition) rules, those editions’ depictions of race, or how much fun you have playing them, because I don’t care about those games (and for new products after 1993-4, for the most part I’m not even aware of what’s in them at all) and I really wish they’d been called something other than “Dungeons and Dragons.” Don’t argue about it; if you have a problem with it, just hit that red X in the upper right corner of your screen and go away.)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, perhaps we can rationally discuss what racism in Dungeons and Dragons really means.

Racism is not objectively bad. Racism is only a real-world evil because people discriminate against each other on the false premise of racial superiority. There is no difference in the potential intelligence or achievement or emotional state or morality between a white man, black man, Hispanic, Asian, Eskimo, Indian, or any other person. None. The racist in the real world is a douche bag and a problem because his base suppositions are wrong: He is not superior, not by his blood, and if he claims racial superiority, not by his mind either.

In a fictional world, that often isn’t the case. Humans are different than elves are different than dwarves are different than orcs, and objectively so. Good and Evil exist as objective forces, and certain races are predisposed to a certain moral outlook. This does not mean that authoring, playing, or accepting this as objective fictional fact means endorsing or accepting this as truth in real-world ethnicities or that it's at all related to how the real world works.

Hell, in my Creature Generator, I explicitly talked about using racism in the last section of the book (although Goodman Games softened the section name to “Prejudice,” and I didn’t find it a problem to let them change it). I suggested one way of accentuating the fantastic in a game (and to give players more in the way of moral dilemmas to make their choices more meaningful) is to eliminate it whenever the mundane would suffice. So I suggested getting rid of all the humanoids and demi-humans and just replacing them with humans that are genetically hard-coded to be better or worse in ways and have racial (in the real-world sense) behavior.

“A referee,” I wrote, “should never allow comparisons between his real-life attitudes and how he handles orc analogues in his game.”

But then all this theory meets the real world. It’s all good and well to say this is all imaginary, especially coming from Mr. White Privilege Living Way Up North over here. All this talk about fiction and context means nothing if one minority gamer avoids gaming because they’re uncomfortable with some of the present themes.

Well, not exactly.

Fact: D&D rose out of the wargaming scene of the upper Midwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It specifically came from the Fantasy Supplement of the Chainmail game. That game had a decidedly European focus, what with all the plate armor and knights and all those trappings.

That game was co-authored by Gary Gygax, who had a keen interest in things medieval. A friend of mine with whom I've discussed this subject a bit notes, "If Gary Gygax had been black, the game would almost certainly have been very, very different." Which is kind of my point here. Of course it would have been different. The game was written not by a corporate entity seeking mass acceptance and broad demographic penetration, but by a couple guys catering to their personal interests and their already-known audience. Folk creations are going to look like the local neighborhood, not the world at large, you know? And there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, what a happy accident that I’m in the middle of my dissection of his Role-Playing Mastery book. This quote sticks out as particularly relevant here:

... I recommend the reading of works such as A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, Town Government in the Sixteenth Century, The Domesday Book, The Welsh Wars of Edward II, and Numbers in History. Armor, weapons, fortification, siegecraft, costume, agriculture, politics, heraldry, and warfare are the meat and drink of a serious participant in a game such as Dungeons and Dragons.

Guys in their 30s in the upper midwest US writing about pseudo-British medieval fantasy? I can't imagine why D&D would seem rather white under those circumstances...

And then consider that D&D does not even pretend to present an idealized world. In fact, it presents (as a default, anyway) a fallen world, where ruins of a bygone age are filled with treasures unheard of in the present day, ready to be plundered. D&D’s influenced present worlds even less idealized (Lovecraft’s humanity is going to go away as soon as certain things awaken… Hyboria is doomed to fire and destruction to give way to our own prehistory… etc). The presence of racial preference tables (not to mention OD&D’s alignment by race charts) already shows that racism is real in book-standard D&D. The races are also objectively different, inferior and superior to the others in their own ways. We can decide that, “OK, this is a fictional fantasy world and those things happen.” We can decide that if the killing and looting and banditry and the decaying civilization that we would absolutely not tolerate in real life either are acceptable in our games, then maybe a fictional portrayal of race relations might be too. We can realize that elves and halflings and orcs and dwarves and the rest are not human, and more importantly not real, and that racial characteristics of D&D are not analogous to racial characteristics in real life.

(“Oh,” I can hear you saying, “Then what about half-elves and half-orcs? Aren’t those proof that D&D races are human-like enough?”

“Bite me,” says I. “I’ll concede the point when you explain owlbears, dracolisks, and thouls in terms applicable to the real world.”)

And then there is the blatant racism inherent in level limitations. What kind of message does that send to children? I can see the “game” explanation for them (balance), but to act like there is some sort of real-world racial propaganda laced within this way of doing things…

Who will speak up for the poor, oppressed orcs? The holocaust was built on this kind of silence, you know.

Is it some sort of thought crime to imagine a world where an intelligent being (fictional, no less) can be objectively superior or inferior to another? Haven’t we destroyed the very concepts of fiction and imagination if everything imagined is directly mapped and compared to the real world?

Seriously, what is more insane: Racism present in a medievalistic (not strictly “medieval” by any means) game which also draws from ancient mythology, or applying standards of modern Western liberal morality (let us not forget there is a whole world out there that does not share our base assumptions, values, or our perspective on things like race or imagination) to the same? Does medieval history or mythology of any stripe welcome the “other” as anything resembling an equal to the home tribe? Does multiculturalism make any sense in this context?

Here is a weird thought: A D&D player group consisting of white supremacists and a D&D player group consisting of strict medieval reconstructionists might well have identical-looking game worlds. Well, actually, the reconstructionists’ game world might well feature a more diverse selection of foreigners to fight with.

(Thought experiment: How does the Extraordinary Ordinary fit into this particular issue? I do think the more plausible and non-egregious your artwork, the less multicultural it's going to be in a standard D&D.)

So where does multiculturalism fit into D&D? Is it acceptable to say, "It doesn't?" nah, people spend lifetimes creating worlds and cultures in their free time. But if one is playing with base D&D assumptions (medievalistic world), multiculturalism is going to be a source of in-game conflict, with an attempt to "realistically" introduce different ethnicities into a game being at best a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves "Why is Morgan Freeman in this cast?" proposition. (not that I have a problem with Morgan Freeman's inclusion or the explanation of why there's a black guy running around medieval England... hell, my favorite Robin Hood is a cartoon with a friggin fox for the lead character ... The problem was the lead actor in that Prince of Thieves movie... ugh.)

Really, arguing that the artwork of early D&D isn't ethnically diverse enough is like arguing that Excalibur should have had a more minorities in the cast... it just makes no sense in context.

But the thing is, even if D&D isn't explicitly inclusive of non-white ethnicities in its basic form, it doesn't exclude them either. (One can argue that that the marketing actively discouraged anyone from getting into the game, and at least in 1982 there was minority representation in the advertising) The idea that people of different ethnicities need specific invitations or permission to participate in activities created by, and primarily engaged in by, white people... that is deeply offensive, and stupid, to me. That it might not seem welcoming because the faces in the books don't look like them, well, there isn't much I can do about that. The fliers I spread around town don't say, "Whites only," and it's not like I'd be spreading different fliers if I still lived in Atlanta instead of my current residence in Helsinki. All I can do, all anyone can do, especially when dealing with a game that's been out of print for 20+ years and long abandoned by its "owners," is welcome anyone interested. And if nobody of a different skin color is interested in the first place, well, my game table is for people that want to be there, not for people who I would have to go out of my way to convince just so I don't appear to be a racist.

Hell, in my games, I don’t know what skin color everyone’s character is. I don’t care. It’s not important. Another conceit of being white perhaps, but if everyone told me next session, “Our guys all have dark brown skin, didn’t you know?” I wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing would have to be changed.

Now I didn't just spontaneously decide to do this rant. (I didn't just spontaneously write it, either... the lack of posting the past few days is because this is a sensitive issue and I didn't want to completely bugger it up.) The articles and comments here, here, and here triggered it. Some of the stuff is thought-provoking, and some of it strikes me as thought-suppressing.

Some other issues entangled with Race and D&D:

Drow elves. I can’t believe the D&D and Race argument is so feeble as to seriously include drow, but there it is.

First of all, the common elf is a prancy little woodland creature in D&D. Whether it’s to be considered to be taken from Nordic mythology (or by way of Tolkien) or a relative of some Celtic fairy creature, it’s going to be pretty darned light-skinned. The drow, intended to be the evil opposite-in-every-way, are simply just negative elves. Also, drow are matriarchal (oh no, drow are sexist too!), highly intelligent, have a highly organized and efficient society (if plagued by factional infighting), and are clearly meant to be superior foes. Dark elves can advance to higher levels than their light-skinned counterparts (Players Handbook vs Fiend Folio comparison). Dark elves begin at a higher level than light-skinned elves. They all have specialized equipment. They have special abilities their surface cousins don’t have. While not having the potential top strength or constitution of surface elves (but being equal on average), dark elves have a (MUCH) greater average intelligence, wisdom (females only), dexterity, and charisma.

I’m having a difficult time seeing the drow as some sort of racist depiction of anything, unless we're going to consider elves' feelings. But that’s because absolutely nothing involved with the drow’s cultural makeup or individual abilities suggest any relationship with real-life culture. Hell, their appearance doesn’t even suggest it. Take a look at the illustrations of the drow in the early days. Pitch black. Slender. Pointy ears. White hair. I’m looking at the G1-2-3, D1-2, D3, Q1, Fiend Folio, and A4. Except page 25 of G1-2-3 where the drow is shown without any skin shading at all (and dark hair!), David La Force’s dark-haired drow on page 6 of D1-2, and Jeff Dee’s dark-haired drow on p21 of D1-2, the depictions are consistent. In case you blame the pitch-blackness on the “primitive” line-drawing techniques used in early D&D art, I direct you to the front and back covers of the color version of D3. Can anyone look at that Erol Otus cover painting and think that picture is depicting anything relating to our world? How about Jeff Dee’s back cover? And check out Otus’ frontispiece in Q1. That is some bad-ass shit right there.

As far as I can tell, the real problem, and the only reason why “evil drow = real world blacks” has any ammunition, came from Keith Parkinson’s cover of the GDQ 1-7 Queen of the Spiders “supermodule,” depicting drow women so “realistically” that they looked like spandex-clad, real-life black women out of a glam rock video. I can’t find a large enough pic online… do any of those women on that cover even have pointed ears? (Parkinson’s cover for T1-4 was also an aesthetic influence on murderer and church burner musician Kristian Vikernes. Parkinson did a lot of great work for D&D, but I am very, very glad we didn’t have to find out what evil he would have unintentionally inspired upon the world had he been the one to paint the cover of Scourge of the Slave Lords.)

(wait, let us not forget Larry Elmore's brown-skinned Drizzt on the cover of The Crystal Shard, but Drizzt can hardly be considered a racist depiction of anything, even at that early stage)

And the “Realistically, creatures that live underground would be pale white, not black!” argument? Yes, because when sitting down and designing an underdark, we need to think what color these elves-that-have-been-cast-from-the-surface-after-a-great-war-and-now-live-in-great-cities-and-worship-a-spider-demon-goddess-who-is-objectively-real-and-need-to-compete-for-living-space-with-squid-heads-from-outer-space-and-giant-mind-controlling-squid-fish should realistically be.

Is race relations really all about impressions that shallow? If it is, is it even really worth anything at all?

There is enough real, pervasive, painful racism out in the world, and bringing this shit up just creates a smokescreen, making one ever more suspicious of any claims of racism.

Examining the literary influences of D&D might be in order. Particularly, RE Howard and HP Lovecraft are hardly seen as progressive icons in literature, you know? Yet what impact do the racial attitudes of the authors have on their work and the message it sends? Lovecraft, he who owned a cat named, and wrote a character with a cat named, “Nigger-Man,” (Rats in the Walls) is an interesting study of race in literature. Blatant racism abounds, but changes over time; see the identification with aliens in At the Mountains of Madness. But the greater point of Lovecraft’s mythos writing is that humanity is insignificant in the face of the greater universe, and that to become part of that greater universe or to even become aware of it means breaking away from the ability to live amongst normal human society. Whitey as well as everyone else would be swept away into the cosmic madness. I would also argue that the racism in his works actually makes them work better as horror stories as a modern reader surely feels much more uneasy reading certain stories than people would have upon their original publication.

But does anyone believe that Lovecraft (listed as a prime D&D influence in the DMG Appendix N) contributed sociopolitical values to D&D? Or can we agree that Evil Cults, Monsters From Beyond, and tentacled brain-eating monsters and the atmosphere those things generate were the contributions?

RE Howard and his Conan stories are perhaps a bit more problematic. Conan was a prime inspiration for Gygax and D&D, and because of Howard’s background (1920s rural Texas doesn’t bring harmonious thoughts to mind) and wrote in terms of the real world, or real-world analogues (as the Hyborian Age nations and peoples absolutely were), the treatment of race in the Conan stories must be scrutinized. Howard’s treatment of the Picts and the blacks as more primitive than the Hyborian nations is unquestionable. It is highly questionable if that is a negative depiction. In a fictional universe where the overall (and explicitly stated) message is that civilization is an unnatural state of human affairs, a depiction of primitive savagery can’t be seen as denigrating.

Combine this with the facts that Conan often allies with non-whites, feuds with even more Vikingish folk than his own, and despises and acts against the ruling civilized (white) classes, you really have to stretch hard to find racism, while present, as a theme in Conan stories. You have to stretch really hard to ignore the absolute pile of real-world unacceptable behavior found in Conan stories just to highlight race relations as an issue.

And we have to talk Tolkien. One interesting factor concerning D&D and race is the discussion about Tolkien’s influence on the game. My belief, shared by certain others, is that Tolkien’s influence on D&D is completely superficial, limited mostly to some races and monsters (and one class). So if race and racism in the game is an issue, that superficiality isn’t so superficial after all. So what does that say about us players and pundits who consider race a superficial issue in the game?

Anyway, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was roughly based on Norse myths, so the staggering whiteness on the side of the protagonists is easily explained.

But, ah, what about the orcs? You can go research Tolkien and race on your own. The big question for D&D purposes is: Are the humanoid races stand-ins for real-world aboriginal races?

Answer: I hope so.

If goblins and kobolds and orcs and the rest are stand-ins, then it’s at the very least a tacit acceptance that portraying real-life native ethnicities, regardless of historical record or attitudes of the times, as evil and perfectly acceptable to be nothing more than targets to slaughter and rob, isn't such a good thing. I would hope that nobody thinks that Gygax or Arneson (or Tolkien) for that matter placed orcs and goblins so they could be slaughtered as a racial proxy to avoid real-life social scrutiny.

“A group of niggers and dagos draw their swords as you bash down the door. A mystic hebe behind them prepares a spell. Roll for initiative!”

Does even one single person believe this is the true motivation behind the inclusion of objectively evil humanoid races in D&D? That Gygax and Arneson were slyly inserting white power propaganda into their games and that numerous intelligent men retained this all in their designs over numerous editions between 1974 and 1989? Please. So… what then? What's the argument? That people might misunderstand? From here:

While doing research for this talk, I came across the Stormfront web-site. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this vile-corner of the internet, it is the world’s largest discussion forum for white-supremacists.

The guy then talks about how he read posts from gamers that frequented that site and quotes extensively from someone that saw parallels between D&D racial characteristics and real-life race.

I'll say that again: This guy went to a white power website (look at it here if you think this is exaggeration) and is using comments made by white supremacists to support his views on race. What a dumb shit! The fact that white supremacists use D&D racial characteristics to support real-world views of race is not indicative of anything. These people are white supremacists. These fucking idiots have a completely warped view of race in the real world, so how could their interpretations of how D&D relates to it hold any significance? Doesn't the fact that these idiots think that real-world race works as described in the Players Handbook pretty much invalidate anything they have to say?

The article also includes many other things that don't seem very well thought-through. "Here's some controversial stuff to think about... but I'll leave half the story out so it's even more thought-provoking!" instead of any real thought-provoking content:

If one is still doubtful about the thesis that humans are set forward as “the self,” the player handbook continues:

“Human characters are neither given penalties nor bonuses, as they are established as the norm upon which these subtractions or additions for racial stock are based. Human characters are not limited as to what class of character they can become, nor do they have any maximum limit.” (p. 16)


Imagine that humans living in a world with no orcs, elves, or dwarves exist would write a game where humans are "the self," and thus all the other races would be an exotic other. The nerve. And you can't take Mr. Nerdnite's assumptions that all the non-human PC choices represent the non-white, "exotic other" seriously either. Dwarves and gnomes I could perhaps see in that context, but what about elves? What the hell are Halflings? Is there even a way to interpret Tolkien's hobbit (which is what a halfling is) to make him some sort of "other" in real-world terms? And halflings are, thief class aside, the most restricted non-human race in D&D. That same site's rant about paladins is rather rich as well.

Only humans can be Paladins, because it is assumed only humans have the temperament and cultural background to understand the most important of “western European” values – law, order, god, and community.

Yet it is those same values, merely the 21st version instead of the medieval version, that the entire argument is based upon. And wait a second. "Law, order, god, and community" are western European values? That's mighty interesting. And of course paladins are going to be quite western European - they were ripped from Poul Anderson's novel about a world-jumping Dane and has been used as a King Arthur(fantasy)/Charlemagne (history) equivalent for fuck's sake!

In the world of D&D, non-humans are restricted in order to ensure a continuing human supremacy. The arguments against lifting the racial class restrictions sounds nothing so much arguments against ending segregation or giving African American’s the vote.

I could be cruel and point out that he's comparing "African Americans" (I refuse to use that term myself because it creates absurdities such as newscasters saying things like - and I witnessed this personally in Atlanta - "Canadian African American" and non-black African-born naturalized citizens being mocked for calling themselves African American) to things that aren't even human. And comparing real life civil rights struggles to the ability of fictional creatures to advance (by means of collecting treasure and killing things) in fictional professions. How is that not terribly offensive? Not to mention he gets his outrages mixed up.

Let me remind you that every basic player race is white – humans, elves, half-elves, dwarves, and gnomes – except for half-orcs.

That's fine when he's trying to show how racist the half-orc portrayal is. There is also:

In D&D, the possible professions and jobs available are limited by race – humans, the normative white race, can be whatever they like. The other races, the non-human/white races, are restricted, thought the game politely describes these restrictions as based on “natural tendencies of race.” And it goes beyond the simple stereotype as “Dwarves like war and fighting.”

But there's also this:

Not only are non-human characters limited to the jobs they can get, but they are limited to how high they can rise within those professions. The blame for this fantasy glass-ceiling, however, is set squarely on the non-human races themselves: they lack ambition. This lack of ambition is engrained by race – all elves lack the ambition to advance any further than the 12th level as a fighter. Never mind what character you want to make, what the individual you wish to play might desire – as an elf, he is inherently, due to race, inferior to a human warrior in terms of level advancement. When we make the obvious parallel to race in the real world, this is even more troubling than class restrictions. White Europeans have unlimited potential, while non-whites are severely limited in how high they can climb in the social order – not due to ingrained, systemic racism, mind you, but because they lack the ambition to rise any higher.

So are the demi-humans white or not? On whose fictional behalf are we supposed to be outraged?

I've heard all sorts of arguments against racial level limitations (the best being "They'll almost never come into play if you're playing properly because most campaigns don't last the years needed to advance that far."). "You're a real-world racist if you use them!" is a new one.

Now in the comments, you've got stuff like this, which is a truly shitty situation, but, ah, none of those offenses are based in anything printed in a D&D book. Putting some minority characters in the artwork isn't going to stop a moron from trying to push a player to be a thief because the player is black (although wouldn't it be a hoot if all that was just because nobody else in the group was a thief and they needed one?), or trying to make orcs rape a character because the player is female. Although it is notable that she later went on to play Vampire, when the entire idea of becoming a vampire is metaphorical rape...

Honestly, the entire thing makes me weary. D&D is guilty of being rather white. D&D does set up racial conflicts between fictional races in fictional worlds. But promoting or even illustrating real-world racism? No.

Up next: Addressing the concerns of animals rights activists who complain that D&D players don’t role-play the proper care of their mounts and pack animals and the harm that causes such animals in real-life.

59 comments:

  1. I recently stumbled across that Race In D&D link myself in my web meanderings, and it immediately sprang to mind when I started reading your post. I'm glad you decided to riff on it for a bit, as it saves me some breath.

    I've used racism in my games, and it makes for interesting situations regardless of what side of the bile the player character is on. I've had Elven "Rangers" spat upon, Fighting Men treated as property, Hobgoblins as a dominant sentient species, and parties who made most of their filthy lucre from the slave trade. The racism isn't there to teach a lesson, for the DM's screen is not a pulpit. It is simply there. A fact of life that contributes to a compelling setting.

    D&D isn't my favorite platform for exploring real-world social issues, and I don't think it's really suited for such. Let's face it, real world social issues tend to be far from what most people consider fun.

    From the above link though: the line "Elves prefer Jens Leikman, The Mountain Goats, and attending art openings in SOHO." had me in nigh preternatural stitches.

    By the way, as a point of personal preference, I've always enjoyed underground elves as subterranean albinos. GAZ13 style.

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  2. "What the hell are Halflings? Is there even a way to interpret Tolkien's hobbit (which is what a halfling is)...?"

    Yes. Hobbits=Rustic English Gentry -- the group that Tolkien himself most identified with. At least that's the way I always interpreted it. The Shire is like an idealized English countryside, full of simple, innocent English yeomen. It's as close to Paradise as Middle-Earth gets. Tolkien, anyway, would enjoy himself there.

    As for the whole "Racism in D&D" topic -- I think the most problematic thing about it is the term "Race" itself. It's a poor fit, really. In D&D, we're not really dealing with different races but different creatures. An elf isn't a type of human -- it's a friggin elf!

    But the real issue isn't the typology of fantasy creatures -- it's race-conscious folks projecting their own race-centric neuroses onto the content of the game. The game is a VEHICLE. Where it goes, whatever symbolic/metaphoric landscapes it wanders into, is entirely up to the DM and the players.

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  3. I can't comprehend how anyone could be so absurdly dimwitted to take D&D racial stereotypes as reflective of real world racism, but I guess that's kind of your point. I think if anyone said to me "You know D&D is racist (in a real world sense)" I would laugh myself into a stupor and then proceed to ignore that person for the rest of my life knowing full well the breadth of their witlessness. Great post.

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  4. Haven’t we destroyed the very concepts of fiction and imagination if everything imagined is directly mapped and compared to the real world?

    Way to undermine your own argument, champ. You know how you mentioned how its unsurprising that D&D is so European because its based largely on a particular region & period? By your own subsequent admission, that isn't really any sort of defence, is it?
    Alternatively, you could be saying that Gygax, Arneson, and all the rest were simply destroying the concept of imagination by mapping their creation so closely to the real world.
    Does this argument also mean that you wouldn't find stuff like The Turner Diaries a bit strange, even if you weren't aware of the background of the author?
    (PS. The answer to your question is an emphatic no, of course not, don't be stupid).

    Also, I think that the main problem with Dark Elves stem from the fact that they, like, apparently turned black after they turned all evil and stuff, rather than how much arse they may be able to kick. That really is kind of weird, especially when you consider that humans never had that problem, and they've got fundamentally evil societies all over the place.

    Anyway, I actually wrote on this a few months ago. Except it was mostly about the elements of that Nerdnite article which I found disingenuous, rather than a defence of D&D.
    Its pretty juvenile, surprise surprise, but someone may want to read it, I guess.

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  5. "Is race relations really all about impressions that shallow? If it is, is it even really worth anything at all?" -- It was an interesting read, but very long. I'm not sure this shallowness deserved such a long article in the first place. :)

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  6. (note: I just edited the post to remove a link from the paragraph that begins "Does even one single person believe..." I just noticed the linked article was on SomethingAwful, which is a superbly antagonistic humor site, but not something to use as an example for this article.)

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  7. Allow me to ship you a bigger spoon via FedEx, because I don't think you've stirred the pot of self-promotional aggrandizement via a hot-headed "fuck the world" rant about a cliched hot-button topic enough. I was half expecting a nude photo of you in blackface at the end of that post just so you could score a little more Internet traffic.

    Seriously, I know it's probably dark about 23 1/2 hours a day up there right now, but do you really have nothing better to do than sit around thinking about ranting on crap like this all day long?

    Is there so little fulfillment in your life right now that you feel the need to stir up shit just so you can look like some sort of D&D gamer version of Rush Limbaugh?

    It's so ridiculous, its almost kinda sad. Well okay, not really. Pathetic, maybe.

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  8. I take it you don't agree with the points made in the article then?

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  9. Actually, if you re-read that, you'll notice I state no opinion either way with regards to D&D and racism. I was sorta focusing more on your need to come across as a "cranky son of a bitch" and continually fill your blog with not much more than ranting flamebait.

    But hey, it's your little corner of the internet. If that's what keeps you from getting hammered on Finlandia and wandering off to die in some snowbank, knock yourself out.

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  10. I'm just wondering why you're feeling the urge to let us know...

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  11. "I was half expecting a nude photo of you in blackface..."

    LOL

    I love this place.

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  13. I don't always agree with what you say, but I give you props for always finding the time and mental stamina to wade through bullshit like like a superhero internet Waste Services worker.

    Concerning Drow: Black, in Western Culture, is often seen to represent things like evil, corruption, impurity, death, and the like. I wonder why that color was picked to represent a fallen evil elven race that worships a black spider demon god?

    Of course, if Gygax & Co. were bigger fans of Moby Dick, they might have realized that elsewhere in the world that extreme "white" is just as reviled as something unnatural and evil.

    Maybe Drow should have been purple to make sure that nobody hurt the feelings of coffee swilling English Lit. dropouts?

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  14. Ah, Jim...you have tackled this subject much more articulately than I. The one and only time someone has confronted me with the idea that D&D is racist propaganda and that evil humanoids are supposed to represent indigenous or aboriginal cultures, I laughed and told him to get a job.

    This entry reminds me of a book called "Turmoil in the Toybox", which my grandmother gave to my mom when I was young. Ironically, it was the first place I ever heard of D&D. Anyway, the points in this book stretch about as much as those who insist that we're playing out some kind of crazy colonial wet dream when we're pretending to kill imaginary monsters.

    The book, in case you were curious:
    http://www.librarything.com/work/2186601

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  15. Small point: there clearly is some pretty terrible racism in Conan. Here's the evidence:
    Conan often expresses certain rustic moral principles, that are clearly meant to stand in refreshing contrast to the depraved "civilized" societies he travels in. They're things like this: "In 'civilized' countries I've seen some people becoming sick from gluttony, while others starved in the streets. Amongst my people as long as there is food all eat." Or, "He was my friend and did nothing wrong, what do I care that there is a law saying I must turn him in." But another one that shows up frequently, and even serves as the whole motor for the plot of several stories is, "Even I'm not so depraved as to leave a white woman in the hands of black men." As far as I can tell, there is every reason to think that REH intended this as just the same sort of rustic common sense as the rest.

    Also, the way in which they are represented as barbaric is entirely different from the way Conan is represented. Conan is something like Rousseau's noble savage, brutal, but nonetheless uncorrupted by civilization, at one with nature and possessing an appealing moral simplicity. The dark races, on the other hand, are subservient and easily cowed, worship evil gods, practice cannibalism, etc.

    (BTW, I LOVE Conan. It's just got some fucked up race shit in it and there's no need to sugar-coat it.)

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  16. What is going on with the Picts, on the other hand, is much more complicated. For one thing, REH notes in passing that "their skin is white, although no one calls them white". Also, unlike the black races, they are a sort of evil mirror image of the Cimmerians. Their barbarism is treated, to some extent, on the same terms as Conan's, e.g. they possess the same natural vigor he does, they have the same strong will, and connection with the natural world. They are, however, clearly evil in a way that Conan is not. They play the role, in essence, of a race of evil Conans.

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  17. >>Small point: there clearly is some pretty terrible racism in Conan.

    No doubt (and I've seen references to some inexcusable quotes from Howard himself in his letters), but the racism is not *absolute* in the white people = good, black people = bad way.

    Of note I consider the untitled story (from Bloody Crown of Conan, run in SSOC as Horror in the Tower I believe) shows a black civilization with different factions, with Conan allied with one of them, with much intrigue involved there. It's a startling contrast to Man-Eaters of Zamboula (cannibals of one origin and servants of another) but there was differentiation.

    This is not to sugarcoat the real racism found in the Conan stories but clarifying that it's not abject "Blacks are nothing but evil spearchucking cannibals that are lesser than all the white people" racism that could be assumed without that clarification.

    As for the Picts... Hyboria is portrayed as our own pre-history, right? And Kull's (and Brule's!) Atlantis is in the same timeline? And Bran Mak Morn is supposedly from our real Roman era? (I have to ask, I have the books but it's really easy to mentally substitute Marvel Comics adaptations considering I was devouring those for *decades* before reading the original stories)

    If so, that puts the Picts in a different light than if we merely look at how they are portrayed in the Conan stories, yes?

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  18. Regarding your timeline, yes, you're correct.

    As for my opinion on the matter, to quote Jesse Ventura, "I ain't got time to bleed". It's interesting to see someone delve so deep into the issue, but ultimately, at least for me, I just can't worry about such "heavy issues" - I just like to play and have fun gaming (Shhhh...I know, the "F" word).

    I guess if anyone said to me that D&D is "racist", my first reply would be "Well, do you think GURPS is racist?" Because in the end, it's all just rules and numbers.

    Anyhow, color me impressed with that treatise.

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  19. i think Terry Pratchett summed up race relations in a lot of fantasy stuff pretty good when he says that "black and white got together to gang up on purple and green"

    I always found it vaguely offensive that people would assume that the myriad of species in D&D stood in for real-world human races. I mean...seriously?

    orc =/= human. period. if you want to play a human character that happens to be brown--you are still making a human character. the amount of melonin does not change the species.

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  20. woa, too much information. Good job though.

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  21. REH's racial outlook in Conan is certainly more nuanced than "white versus black", but it is definitely based on the idea that some races of men are morally and physically superior to others, and the same can be said of Tolkien's treatment of men in Middle Earth. It is clearly a "sins of the father" outlook with superior and inferior bloodlines.

    It all has to be read in the context of The Hyborean Age to be fully understood, where races rise and fall, and are patterened after the "great immigration" and "Atlantean" theories that had so much more currency at the time. There are clearly good black people and evil white people in Conan, but REH clearly subscribed (in those tales) to the idea that some races of men are superior to others (even if not in absolute terms or for absolute periods).

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  22. RACE refers to a group of people related by common descent or heredity.
    In OD&D, Gary Gygax made a semantic error by using the term race when species would have been more precise.

    The table in the Players Handbook refers to interactions between species
    NOT races; therefore,
    DnD does NOT promote racism.

    Example

    IF a poodle hates cats that is just an example of inter-species rivalry or discord.

    IF a poodle discriminates against saint bernards then THAT is racism.

    USUALLY, progeny between different species are rare, and when they do exist they are sterile (donkey + horse = mule). This might discourage PCs from becoming half-elves, half-dragons, etc..

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  23. >>In OD&D, Gary Gygax made a semantic error by using the term race when species would have been more precise.

    Perhaps, but Tolkien made that same semantic error.

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  24. You are missing the point ;

    within the same species, rivalry is racism/ bigotry . .

    discord or differences between species is NOT racism

    Are chinese racist because they eat monkeys??

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  25. Of course not, but I think the answer to that question would be much different in most people's opinion if the monkeys could talk and fully interact with humans.

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  26. *Furiously jotting down notes for anthropomorphic OD&D Monkey race*

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  27. Tolkien was a professor of literature/ languages,
    he was NOT a scientist or sociologist.

    Competition between species is natural
    (whether they can talk or not);
    resources are scarce; therefore,
    species often result to violence to ensure their survival or prosperity.
    It is RARE that species cooperate for mutually beneficial goals
    (i.e., domestication or symbiosis).

    It is silly to argue THAT DnD is racist, because,
    Elves and dwarves aren’t on friendly terms.
    Now if wood elves and gray elves don’t get along,
    that could be considered to be racism.

    Unfortunately, as you so CLEARLY stated,
    You have way too much time on your hands . . .
    IF you are trying to compare a
    FANTASY world (complete with dragons & dungeons)to Earth.

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  28. That makes no sense to me. If it were true then "the human race" would be something of a misnomer. It seems much more likely to me that "race" has acquired a narrower meaning in a scientific context than it originally held in language. I doubt very much that Tolkien would bow to such notions, and given the medieval tendency to use terms such as "a race of demons", or "a race of giants", I don't think I shall either.

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  29. My impression is that "race" has acquired a more strictly biological (and broader, in terms of classification categories such as "white" and "black") meaning in common use today, as opposed to being in former ages more often a synonym for "people."

    The other day, I came across a column at RPG.net blathering on about how D&D was racist yadda yadda ... painfully ignorant in the comprehensive way that requires a resolute determination to do NOTHING to learn thing one about the subject.

    If someone in Thailand makes up a game drawing on the mythology and pulp fiction popular in that country, will there an uproar about how horribly it fails to represent bearded middle-class white Wisconsinites?

    It was just a darned EXAMPLE, in the first place. There's no rule that you've got to have Nordic-style faerie folk tromping around; personally, I'm a bit weary of anything reminiscent of cut-rate Tolkien imitations.

    Empire of the Petal Throne has as far as I know NO white people at all (unless you count one hobbit in a zoo) on the whole PLANET! I guess Prof. Barker deserves even more bashing than Gary Gygax, eh?

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  30. It seems much more likely to me that "race" has acquired a narrower meaning in a scientific context than it originally held in language.

    At least in my neck of the "scientific" world (physical or biological anthropology) race is not a scientifically valid term. I think this is also true in biology. Of course it has many meanings and usages in popular culture and even in governments.

    Anyone here ever studied literature in college? These sorts of discussions remind me of why I decided to take a technical writing path for my other BA in English instead of a lit path. Many times (note I didn't say "all") in literature you have a limited number of writings that people beat like a dead horse over and over again to try to say something new about it. Then you have the development of certain theoretical perspectives, sometimes pertaining to gender or race, in which people will again look at literature and try to twist every little thing into being about rape, oppression, racism, molestation, nipple piercing, whatever. There is often a complete disregard for author intent, compounded by the use of pseudo-psychology by unqualified people.

    In other worlds, a lot of talking through asses about things they don't know anything about. I suspect that there is some of that here when it comes to race and D&D.

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  31. Empire of the Petal Throne has as far as I know NO white people at all (unless you count one hobbit in a zoo) on the whole PLANET! I guess Prof. Barker deserves even more bashing than Gary Gygax, eh?

    I could see an argument being made about that. At least Gary stuck to plain vanilla anglo fantasy. Barker on the other hand created an exoticized world of brown people with a very "savage" culture. I could see someone convincingly calling that racist.

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  32. As he's a convert to Islam, I don't think you're allowed to call Muhammad AR Barker racist, Dan. >:)

    The article itself was kind-of tedious. I don't think there's really any way to engage constructively with Frankfurt School-derived Deconstructionist arguments such as this one on the inherent racism of D&D. The arguments themselves are intended to have a wholly destructive effect on the target. They're a more sophisticated variant on "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"

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  33. As he's a convert to Islam, I don't think you're allowed to call Muhammad AR Barker racist, Dan. >:)

    Whoa! I am not calling his racist, but I could see how someone might from a certain pov. In any case, being Muslum doesn't give someone a "get out of racism free card." ;-)

    Plenty of non-white and/or non-Christians are racist.

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  34. At least in my neck of the "scientific" world (physical or biological anthropology) race is not a scientifically valid term. I think this is also true in biology. Of course it has many meanings and usages in popular culture and even in governments.

    A quick scuttle around wikipedia suggests to me that "race" has been dropped as an unhelpful and imprecise term by the majority of the scientific community, but that at some earlier point it was being used its meaning narrowed down.

    Anyone here ever studied literature in college? These sorts of discussions remind me of why I decided to take a technical writing path for my other BA in English instead of a lit path.

    It does seem quite likely that a literature course is where these folks picked up the critical skills to invest something with a meaning that was never intended. As with many skills, they can be used for good or ill.

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  35. Jim, as usual your post is worth reading. I applaud your decision to not include nude photos of yourself. That shows excellent judgment.

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  36. @ belst8: I have always assumed, given REH's frame of reference (1920's TX, as noted above), that Picts = Irish. Remember, in many places in America the Irish were hated more than blacks, Jews, and Natives. "Potato-nigger", anyone?

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  37. Regarding Conan, there's plenty of evidence which suggests REH had a more sympathetic view of the Picts than you guys seems to think - for one thing, he expressed a certain amount of admiration for the Commanches in a least a couple of his letters that I have encountered, mostly for their aggressive defence against 'civilised' encroachments. Conan's encounter with them has some thematic and geographical similarities with the Red River War, so it seems likely that Howard was drawing from that source when he wrote the story in question (further evidence: if I recall correctly, the Picts use typically 'Indian' means of communication, like smoke signals or drums, or some such thing. I'd check but I can't be bothered just now), and since he letters point out that REH wasn't wholly unsympathetic towards the Comanche, well... yeah. Note also that the Picts are the perennial goodies in pretty much all his other stories and there you go.
    Also, don't forget that REH was of Celtic descent himself, and he was pretty proud of that fact.

    As for people who do/did English lit, well, I am one, and here I am to defend my, hem, discipline. In spite of the fact I don't actually agree with the Nerdnite guy.
    That said, there are some nasty parallels between D&D and white supremacist beliefs. Sorry, but there you go.

    Fact: many race-type loonies reckon that whites are just better, largely by virtue of their intelligence and spiritual 'superiority.' They acknowledge that some black people may be smarter than others, but regard these as both abnormal and still 'lesser' than the smartest white people. This, of course, has nothing to do with education or opportunity, but biology.
    Fact: Orcs and other 'lesser' evil races in D&D are, in general, stupider than humans, and their smartest members still ain't squat compared to the smartest hume. Inevitably, they worship evil, as in cruel and violent, gods, while humans enjoy a more sophisticated (and humane) theology. Inescapable game mechanics consign them to this fate.
    Fact: White supremacists of the sort I'm describing reckon that miscegenation is really, really bad, and hybrids lead inevitably to degeneration. The hybrids themselves will never be equal with their 'good' parents and will generally share the traits of their 'bad' parent.
    Fact: On that note, the 'bad' parent will generally be stupid, violent, and awfully fond of rape. Only race traitors would have consensual sex with a member of a lesser race (see: The Turner Diaries).
    Fact: Half orcs in D&D are generally stupid and violent (Assassin/Barbarian), like their orcish parent. Like full-blooded orcs, even the brightest examples will never be as quick on the uptake as the brightest humans.
    Fact: Only degenerates would have sex with an orc.
    Fact: White supremacist types are convinced that keeping blacks and other races away from white areas, preferably (although not always) with violence, is necessary to protect the white races from their depredations.
    Fact: Killing orcs in order to prevent them from raiding human villages is objectively Good in D&D.
    Fact: Racial Holy War. It's exactly what you think.
    Fact: Killing orcs is objectively Good in D&D, even if they're minding their own business. They are, after all, Evil. Some DMs may disagree, but I don't believe there's anything in the core books which contradicts me there.

    OK, look, I could go on (esp. about malevolent intelligence, manipulative behaviour, and certain ideas regarding Judaism), but I'm sick of thinking about racist imbeciles. Hopefully you guys can now see that even if it wasn't intentional - and I'm going to say it wasn't - that there are a number of parallels between default D&D action and morality and a certain backwards ideology, which is essentially the basis of that guy's argument.
    Whether or not D&D encourages racism... well, let's just leave it at 'don't be stupid.'

    'They didn't mean it' isn't really a defence, by the way. Want an extreme, emotive analogy to illustrate? OK: manslaughter and murder.
    I can also think of at least one example of an author - Carl Barks, America's single greatest comic writer and artist (I may be being a bit inflammatory there, but it's true) - who, on reading his old material, spotted stuff in there that wasn't intended when he wrote it (specifically, a pro-Capitalist bias). I couldn't find the quote I want, but there's a couple others where he details his surprise at what went into his stories. Here's one:
    “I read some of my stories recently and thought, 'How in the hell did I get away with that?' I had some really raw cynicism in some of them.”

    Fact is, people are shaped by their times and situations, and a lot of the stuff that gets into their creative work isn't necessarily what they intend. I assume none of you find it surprising that an author's body of work tends to share thematic concerns? They could write anything they want, but they don't. Their own ideas and biases tend to come through. I give you Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson as examples.
    Anyway, this took ages to write and I need a shower. So that's enough for now.

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  38. >>Fact: On that note, the 'bad' parent will generally be stupid, violent, and awfully fond of rape. Only race traitors would have consensual sex with a member of a lesser race (see: The Turner Diaries).

    I should start a "I Am A Race Traitor" Facebook group.

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  39. I enjoyed your guide to adventure writing and even your I hate fun article had some useful bits in it. I've waded through countless crap posts hoping to find something as interesting and worthwhile as your adventure writing guide. This post is the last straw for me and I hope to never visit this blog again. You're ranting, attitude, and views on life are so damned negative....

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  40. I just noticed your reply to the comment before mine from a reader. Do you ever take the time to make thoughtful intelligent replies? It seems like you write flame bait piece of crap articles like this and that when someone takes the time to post a lengthy (though not as lengthy as your article) reply you simply respond with an idiotic one liner.

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  41. I thought you were leaving.

    Anyway, Lord Rocket had a well-detailed post that had nothing to argue with and nothing that I could add to. It stands quite nicely on its own.

    I do, however, reserve the right to be a goofball on my own damn blog, thankyouverymuch.

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  42. You're ranting, attitude, and views on life are so damned negative....

    I really didn't get any sense of your views on life in this post at all, so I can't really comment. You seemed to be asking more questions than you were supplying answers. TBH, I enjoy it when you tackle potentially inflammatory subjects like this because (a) it makes for interesting posts and (b) gets people all riled up. You're 'tude in general seems to challenge the reader to respond. So far the only negativity I've seen is your adamant disinterest in new-fangled D&D games, and while you're not apologetic about this stance by any means (and why should you be?) you don't attack the people who do like those games.

    I think the worse PR you've gotten so far is the whole "I hate fun" thing. The bad press you've gotten seems to stem from a misreading of your views on the subject. Essentially, you don't like frivolous D&D games and prefer a more serious approach that will net more long-term interest and enjoyment of the campaign.

    My two bits.

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  43. The thing about orcs is the question of exactly what in the hell they are? Do they have souls? Do they have spirits? Are they a kind of demon? Are they automotons animated only by the will of evil deities? There is a really good article on the subject out there that deals with Tolkien's musings (he never actually came to a conclusion about it all, offering several potential ideas, the Silmarillion's view that they are corrupted elves was apparently discarded by him later in life).

    In pre 2e D&D this stuff seems to be just left up in the air, with many potential "solutions" being possible. Treating orcs like humans in rubber suits/human surrogates does leave the game open to interpretive racism, and that Star Trek-esque "sentinent beings" default also robs them of their monstrosity. Of course, even Grendel is descended from Adam via Cain, but in that world view all things are created by God, and almost all forms of killing a sin.

    That said, there are clearly areas that are morally problematic in D&D. Gygax was apparently happy enough with the idea that a paladin can legitimately kill evil folk converted to good to prevent backsliding, a notion I find runs quite contrary to any idea of "good" I might harbour. Really, though, a morally questionable world is what you get when you glorify violence.

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  44. That said, there are some nasty parallels between D&D and white supremacist beliefs. Sorry, but there you go.

    I'm not trying to be too down on English lit. However, one can draw parallels between many many things in life...but drawing parallels does not make any two things necessarily alike, or even from the same basis, or even draw anything informative. That is the root of my problem with these sorts of interpretations. We can draw parallels between the way orcs are treated in D&D and the way some "races" are treated in society, but what that means in the end is only relevant to the context of the respective issues. Orcs were never meant to be stand ins for blacks or Martians or whatever. Fantasy literature has always had fantastic races, but I don't see the existence of the seven dwarves as a coy slam at Little People, a statement how men with dwarfism are essentially neutered since none could possibly win the heart of the pretty woman. That dwarves are only good for toiling in the mine, and can't even pick up after themselves.

    See, anyone can whip this sort of thing out of their ass, but it doesn't make it "valid."

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  45. Really, though, a morally questionable world is what you get when you glorify violence.

    Not to lay too much on it, but it struck me long ago as interesting that RPGs overwhelmingly tended that way even more than some of their literary inspirations. The "war-game" aspect seems much easier to do well than the many other possibilities.

    It's a bit odd to me when some players make much ado about wanting their characters to be "heroic" because it seems to mean mainly a statement as to how horrible (in relative competence as well as morality) their foes must be, and how superhuman in violence the "heroes" must be. That would be fine if these players were not prone to express disdain for the "sword and sorcery" genre and think themselves emulating "high"(brow) fantasy.

    In the latter, humanity is an important concern; the genuine kind of heroism we appreciate in the real world figures more: selfless courage, perseverance in hardship and loss, a moral compass that points out to the suffering of others. Our real heroes (or at least mine, and those of people I know) tend to be modest and hardworking rather than flashy.

    That's not the kind of character we tend to play in games, though!

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  46. Greetings and thanks for the link to my post. Not sure if I qualified as one of the more thought provoking or thought suppressing, but I'll take what I can get.

    Been a bit busy in DC, so I just got around to posting a response on my blog gregsanders.typepad.com.

    Really short version: I think fictional facts are fine and sometimes necessary for mechanics and setting. When games have fictional objective facts relating to morality, I think things get more problematic.

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  47. "There is no difference in the potential intelligence or achievement ... between a white man, black man, ... or any other person."

    To the best of my knowledge, IQ tests don't support your claim.

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  48. riprock;

    Intelligence tests measure one's ability to take intelligence tests. This skill is also trained in schools to a significant degree. Eliminating this effect would require very carefully chosen test subjects.

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  49. Intelligence tests correlate with general cognitive ability. They are also predictive of performance, especially in cognitively demanding tasks, jobs and professions. Amongst the experts there is a debate over nature vs nurture (eg Lynn on the 'right' vs Flynn on the 'left'), not about the validity of the tests themselves.

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  50. The question that nobody seems to ask is: What is D&D? In my mind, D&D restates specific discourses that are Western, imperial, colonial, masculine, governmental, and martial. There are many parallels between the literature of European exploration and expansion and D&D. We shouldn't be surprised either given the two primary precursors to D&D, fantasy fiction and war-gaming, are also rife with these discourses.

    Also, objectivity doesn't exist, it is a social construction.

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  51. I live in Alabama, the heart of Dixie (ugh), and I can tell you that racism is alive and well here, to the point that the public school systems are mostly one race or the other. I've taught in one of these school systems and I know exactly what I'm talking about, and that there is a problem with how people deal with different ethnic groups, especially how whites (the dominant economic group) treat other ethnic groups and religions, for instance, the war on drugs is really a war on blacks, as evidenced by the fact that the drug-related activities of whites are overlooked far more often than the same activities which occur in the ghetto. I've said all of that because of the sensitivity and seriousness of the real world issue of racism, a problem so deep it ain't even funny.

    I couldn't read through everything written in the above bloggery, too long-winded, to much vitriol, hate, or something, for what I don't know, but I'm glad racism can be discussed through the lens of a roleplaying game. D&D could be used as a tool to work out many psychodramas, and in the book "Shared Fantasy" by Gary Alan Fine, a sociologist, who, as a DM, placed players in compromising situations where they were allowed to choose good or evil, but no one ever really got hurt, the players were able to play out, through shared fantasies, scenarios they hopefully will never have to actually go through, but that hired soldiers stationed in the middle east do regularly.

    My point is, that however clumsily the issue of race is handled in a game or story, we can know one thing for sure- the personal opinions of the speakers involved, and maybe getting one's thoughts out in the open among a balanced group of listeners is helpful, certainly its better than frequenting Stormfront, (ugh).

    As for the notion that no race in the real world is more intelligent than others, it might disturb some to learn that Ashkenazim Jews consistently score 15 points higher than the rest of humanity, and despite their small population can lay claim to a huge number of Nobel prizes (Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker lectures on the subject). The brain is an organ, does intelligence really carry any more moral weight than muscular strength or strong kidneys?

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  52. I just read the original article you cited and I have to agree with its author. It's not that d&d promotes racism, it's just one of many of the unthinking assumptions of sword and sorcery, a genre based on stereotypes. That doesn't mean that one can't make one's own campaign go against the norm! As a DM, I grow attached to the orcs, and especially kobolds, and treat the prejudice against them as human propaganda justifying conquest of their lands. ;l

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  53. Read the article on D&D and racism, then watch the documentary on the events of "Blackhawk Down" (not the movie). 18 US soldiers were killed, while between 1,000 and 10,000 Somalis were killed in the firefight. The ratio roughly corresponds to 4e encounters between player characters and enemy races. Whatever conclusions we draw, surely we can't dismiss this issues easily.

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  54. "clovis said...
    Tolkien was a professor of literature/ languages,
    he was NOT a scientist or sociologist."

    One does not become a linguist without being a scientist, and well versed in social issues.

    **On Race: Indeed the concept is disfavored in the social sciences, although there is a certain amount of political correctness and desire to publicaly problemetize the issue behind the movement to do so. The term is seen to be too loaded and simplistic. Now we speak of ethnicities which are largely races in more complex cultural clothing. Nevertheless, when it comes down to it we do still characterize skeletal material by broad racial categories and recognize pools of more closely related genetic types not unlike "races". Even so, it is important to understand that humans are one of the most highly inbred species on the planet, with far less genetic diversity than say chimpanzies or cats.

    **"The thirty somethings who wrote D&D". Gygax was 33 when D&D was first published, but Arneson was only 24. Kuntz and Kask were pretty young too.

    I guess that the obsession with characteristic distinctions, limitations, restrictions, and categorizations of races, classes, alignments etc. reflect Gygax's career as an insurance salesman. I think it no coincidence that D&D often reads like an actuary table, or that Gygax produced a world compartmentalized in ways any insurance company would appreciate.

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  55. hi,
    This is a nice post i liked it vey much thanks for the sharing.

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  56. Well I'm a die hard gamer and a person with dare I say, "Eurocentric" views. D&D, like fantasy in general, is unconsciously Eurocentric, but so what? Can't we have some cultural product out there that is unabashedly based on white culture with out feeling weird or uncomfortable about it? Whats stopping somebody from making a game or genre of fiction based on Yoruba or some other non-European tradition? I'd fully encourage it, and evren

    D&D is a game made by nerdy white guys large and by for other nerdy white guys, at some point we have to draw the line with all this PC guilt mongering and just say, "look this is our thing, if you not cool with aspects of it, make your own take on it."

    Yet some how I bet such a sentiment would mainly bother white liberals more then any nerdy non-whites interested in gaming.

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  57. Raggi. i just had another ignorant twat try to tell me than D&D is explicitly and intentionally racist. I didn't answer. I just sent them this link. Three days ago.

    I've had blissful silence since.

    Thank you for winning yet another debate on my behalf.

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