Do I have a Moral Obligation to NOT play a different Race or Gender?

Do I have a Moral Obligation to NOT play a different Race or Gender?

  • Yes

    Votes: 8 1.6%
  • Depends

    Votes: 52 10.7%
  • No

    Votes: 426 87.7%

  • Total voters

Anon Adderlan

New member
I finally had someone tell me that my 'white male privilege' makes playing other real world races and genders 'problematic', and that I shouldn't be doing it. Now I have seen more cases where it's turned out badly than not, with the player in question doing it for 'titillation' and playing what was effectively a caricature, but eliminating this option entirely removes one of the primary reasons for playing in the first place, not to mention makes GMed worlds much less racially/sexually diverse.

It's even more problematic when it comes to LARPing as it's easier to represent poorly. I also don't have the same absolute opinions about 'raceface' as some of my friends do, but man if I can only recall a couple of examples of where it was done well enough to be in good taste. And even when it is, who knows what the neighbors will think, and LARPers have enough PR problems already.

And this problem can't even be eliminated by using 'fictional' races either, because all it takes is for a representation to be seen as close enough to a real world analog to cause problems. I saw this pop up with the Star Wars prequels, and more recently (in sorta a reverse way) a racial representation thread where people were arguing over the correct interpretation of line art. It seems these days you have to be conscious enough of race to specifically NOT base things off them.

So yeah, I'm really trying to be considerate in general, but I'm this close to dropping it and treating everything on a case by case basis.


Use the singular they!
Validated User
No, that seems like a kneejerk reaction to me - or, to be slightly more generous, like someone's attempt to prohibit broadly rather than regulate in detail out of a well-intentioned desire to stamp out hurtful representations.

There's nothing wrong with playing people of different ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, et cetera if you're playing them as a person and not a caricature. I've seen my fair share of lonely nerdy dudes playing Lesbian Stripper Ninjas as an exercise in fantasy of a much more personal kind than most people find acceptable at the table, but I've also seen men and women play across gender or race lines without descending into stereotype or exploitation.


Diamond is Unbreakable
Validated User
You could argue the same thing in reverse,

That is, that you have a moral obligation TO play a different race or gender because the act of roleplaying allows you to project your head into and potentially understand in some sense and therefore decolonize the ostensible colonizer. This doesn't necessarily apply to, say, more public endeavors which are media creation and consumption on a mass scale, but in a more private venue, where any negative fallout from screwing up is hopefully limited? Seems like an opportunity to exercise the ol' empathy.

Of course, I say that as someone with an unusual past with RP-as-a-method-of-reflection.

Cerulean Lion

Social Justice Christian
Validated User
You have no such obligation. I would say you do have an obligation to not ridicule or mock people of another race or gender through your roleplay; but that's a different issue.


Staff member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I finally had someone tell me that my 'white male privilege' makes playing other real world races and genders 'problematic', and that I shouldn't be doing it.
That sounds pretty extreme and unreasonable, unless there was some specific problematic pattern in your behavior that was making people really uncomfortable. In general, erasure is worse than making small mistakes while having good intentions, anyway.


Validated User
Not just no, but hell no.

You have a moral obligation to research your character if you're playing something potentially problematic and don't feel you know enough about it - you have a moral obligation not to take the piss - but I think that one of the best ways to broaden your horizons is ab intra like this.

And as a GM you have a moral obligation to have at least both men and women in your worlds.

LARPing is an entirely different story. If you want to play a different gender in LARP, please feel free, but if you want to play a different physical sex you should really put work into representing that well enough that the other players can tell the difference - if you get irritated that people get it wrong, congratulations, now you understand transgender issues a little better, if you're cis OOC.

And you damned well do have a moral obligation not to LARP in anything that looks like blackface/yellowface. It's something I thought hard about while designing my makeup for my character in Empire, because while it looks nothing like blackface it is based on all the same materials.

But again, you'll have more fun with your LARP character if you research how they would think, move, feel, act, in the fashion of a method actor; this is true for all characters, not just ones where you're in a serious makeup job. For example, the above character with the makeup job has a completely incurable magical medical condition that's treated as the equivalent of mediaeval leprosy - as in, culturally it's seen as an outward sign of an inward moral failing. I'm using it to explore self-esteem and self-image issues that as a happily oblivious cis WASP I'm unlikely ever to face in real life. I could play it as a caricature, but in addition to being potentially problematic it would be less fun.
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I used to be Ovid.
Validated User
I would've voted a definite "no" for just tabletop roleplaying, but the costuming aspect of LARP changed my vote to 'depends'. I don't LARP but I'd be extremely uncomfortable playing anything other than a white male unless it was accepted that everyone was, e.g., Rokugani, without having to put on yellowface to represent that.

Robert McGregor

Registered User
Validated User
The only moral obligation that you have in an RPG is to respect the feelings of your fellow players.

I have always thought it was silly that it is supposedly so hard to play someone of a different race or gender. As though every member of some demographic has to have certain traits or can never have certain traits. There are all sorts of people from all sorts of groups and unless somebody is deliberately being rididcuous, disruptive, or offensive you have no reason to say that they aren't playing group X right because there isn't one right way to play group X.

I suspect that people are more likely to notice badly played characters when that character is from some demographic other than that of the player and then focusing on gender or race instead the fact that it's just plain old bad role playing. Most of the bad role playing, with shallow or stereotypical characters, I have seen has been with people playing members of their own race and gender.

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
There are very sound historic reasons why blackface should be avoided in LARPs.

Other than that I don't see a reason why one should limit oneself in that regard. However, do try to avoid playing your character like a cliche.
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