I hate to be “that guy”, but what about Drow, Orcs, Vistani, and the other troublesome races and cultures in Dungeons&Dragons?

7 thoughts on “I hate to be “that guy”, but what about Drow, Orcs, Vistani, and the other troublesome races and cultures in Dungeons&Dragons?

  1. William Dvorak says:

    It seems to me that everyone is forgetting the escapism of the game and that fact that this is an issue that you get from letting the monsters become character races. When they were just monsters they are portraying the stereotype of the darker side of life. Fantasy role-playing is based on myth and in myth you have bad guys for a reason, it shows the evil inherent in the world. The bad is there to teach you a lesson, the lesson that evil does exist in the world and what it takes to overcome those evil aspects of life. Which is a story that has more impact. A great hero that is from a supportive community where everyone believed in the hero and supported them, or heroes that had to shake off the oppression and brutality of their vile surroundings? Is the story of Drizzit more or less compelling because he came from such a wicked and suffocating society? This should be tied to players that wish to play these types of characters if they are looking to play serious role-playing. If you’re just in it for the fun of rolling dice, then just ignore it. Don’t discredit the importance of myth and menacing upon which these types of evil races are founded and the role they play in the narrative. And despite all of that it doesn’t mean that your character has to be evil.

  2. Dallas Rhyne says:

    The reason racism is bad is largely due to the fact that it is incorrect. Creatures that are inherently evil because of their race do not exist in our world. The concept of different species of animals (as we and all fantasy humanoid races are animals) having genetic predispositions toward certain temperaments is a matter of fact, not theory. Thinking any race having a racially-informed temperament in a fantasy world where beings that exist that were created by beings on a divine axis of order, chaos, good, evil, is “troublesome” is totally unsensible, not to mention the fact that many of these races’ temperaments are already described as cultural. If you are going to gut these types of things, it indeed makes no sense to keep any kind of racial system in dnd whatsoever, because if using our reality as an analogue is somehow the standard, than it would be just as offensive to have physical differences. But this is where it is revealed how ridiculous it all is. Are we really going to say that the concept of an imaginary being with more strength than a human is racist or offensive (orc)? That a being of divine influence is more charismatic? How is slapping a “fiend’ label on something to explain away its evilness any better or less offensive than saying they have fiendish origins and are inherently evil? What makes it okay with fiends… them being inherently evil? Do you see how this contradicts? What about hill giants, is it racist for them to be stupid? They’re thinking creatures with feelings. Is it only okay because they don’t have ‘humanoid’ slapped onto their statblock? And if so, that is obviously completely arbitrary and makes no sense. If somehow having physical differences in fantasy races is offensive, then why isn’t it racist to have a giant be stronger than a human? Because they’re bigger? there are size differences in the current races. is that racist too? If i cast awaken on a gorilla and it was stronger than a human still, would that now be “troublesome”? This entire line of thinking is inherently flawed. It is a damn fantasy world people. its not real

    • Dallas Rhyne says:

      I also feel I should add that honestly, I find equating wanting a racial system in a fantasy rpg to being one of ‘the confederates’ to be offensive itself. I am by no means one of ‘the confederates’. Maybe we should focus less on making sure no one is categorizing fantasy races and more on not defining people by groups in the real world.

  3. Marida Cruz says:

    I’d just like to point out that most of these races are explicitly the way they are because of the influence of evil gods on their biological and cultural evolution. I’d also note that the ones I know the culture of, the Drow and the Orcs, actually almost explicitly mirror real world cultures. Orcs are fantasy Mongols, a warrior people to whom conquest and battle are the surest ways to glory and the most honorable pursuit one could have. Drown are like ancient mezo-American cultures, who worship a God through ritualistic sacrifice and believe their champions will be bestowed with otherworldly power as a result. In the Drow’s case, they happen to be right. I’d also note that for both races, their allignments says “usually”, implying that while this is the norm for these cultures, their are cultural offshoots whose customs differ, much like the real life Mongols and Mezo-Americans.
    Also funny that people are only getting offended at the dark skinned humanoid races and not at all the other playable races with evil allignments. Nobody’s given goblins, kobolds, yuan-ti, or mindflayers a second thought, but orcs and drow are a big deal because they look more like humans than the other races do.

  4. Nate says:

    Who cares dude? The rules & all that are guidelines to me. If I want something to be different I just make up a narrative reason why it is & thus it is. Just make them different if you want them to be different. In my campaign the orcs operate like any other race. They are a bit rougher & enjoy a fight but they have a “kingdom”, cities, warchiefs etc & magic schools dedicated to Wizardy, Sorcery & Warlocks. They shun Druidic & Alchemic magic (magic in the world is a little different too. They were once the typical blood-thirsty orcs we know but over time some clans grew & adapted. 6 clans, 3 or which are very well integrated into functioning alongside the major races of the world (humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, Genasi & centaur) & 3 that “function” but hold to the older ways but cannot wage war without good reason or wont have the support of the other clans. & now my players can freely travel to & from the orc lands doing business & experiencing their culture I made tf up lol

  5. Michael Morton says:

    I find it troubling that WoTC is deciding to change the system wholesale. They’re starting to dictate how we should play our campaigns. As it is now, if you want to play orcs as non-evil, you can play in Eberron. If you want orcs that are evil, you can play FR or Greyhawk. We have choices. By rewriting the ‘humanoid’ races as canonically any alignment, they’re removing the differences between settings.

    Also, inherently evil creatures are the core of a campaign, and give the PCs as heroes something to pit themselves against. Great good cannot exist without great evil to oppose it, because without evil we have no way to measure good. Did the BBEG grow up in an oppressive society and is therefore not responsible for his choices? You can choose to be good or evil, and choices have consequences. If you choose to massacre a village because they treated you badly, people will take up arms and hunt you down. If the evil guys are simply victims of other circumstances, then who shall the PCs pit themselves against? Do they only fight fiends, aberrations, monstrosities, and the like? Do we exclude a whole category of foes because they aren’t necessarily evil?

  6. Dan says:

    Clearly, the Vistani are an analogue of the Roma and should be presented respectfully. However, orcs are another matter, and it depends on your literary inspiration.

    Some have suggested that Middle Earth orcs, an influence on original D&D orcs, were a stereotype of non-Europeans, but Tolkien already had the Easterlings and Southrons to do this. If their behaviour is a stereotype of anything, it’s the old British urban poor, going by their dialogue, an often overlooked form of prejudice. But their in-story origin is as creatures bred by a fallen arch-angel, so they could be treated as ‘fiends’ and safely regarded as evil, as long as you removed the Cockney accents.

    If you’re into stranger things like Warhammer orcs, I gather they are somehow related to fungi! While such creatures might not be evil as such, their mindset might be so alien as to render moral distinctions moot, and them worthy of nothing but dread and revulsion, as long as they were depicted as truly inhuman.

    But then there are the World Of Warcraft style orcs, which have had a lot of influence on current D&D orcs, are far more anthropomorphic and therefore should be handled with care. Another commentator here suggests they are inspired by medieval Mongols, but do these orcs have an equestrian culture hailing from the steppes? Another interpretation is that they’re analogous to the Germanic tribes that the Greeks called barbarians. You could then argue that this frees them from anything problematic, till you see this propaganda poster from about a century ago, depicting Germans as evil ogres: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/norman-lindsay-and-hearts-and-minds

    I think it best to err on the side of caution with the depiction of any ‘races’ (whether that term refers to species or merely human cultures). But there is another distinction to be drawn. Can a fictional world depict people as intrinsically worthy of respect who nonetheless suffer prejudice? It’s one thing to overcome stereotypical depictions of Vistani but another to say that nobody in the setting believes those stereotypes. The prejudice itself can form just one of the challenges faced in the adventure – it could even be the evil that the party must overcome.

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