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What are the absolute worst examples of racism or sexism you've seen in published RPG books?

LudicSavant

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D&D definitely has a lot of examples of racism and sexism in it. I described some really egregious examples myself on the previous page (such as the disturbing case of Fighting Women or that a deity supposedly embodying objective Good has a holiday celebrated by initiating ethnic pogroms). However...

I've heard from a number of fantasy authors that they feel pressured to make their fantasy worlds all-white because they are afraid that having any people of color in them, regardless of how they're presented, makes it more likely that they'll draw accusations of "racism" than if they just have everyone be white. This can be illustrated by things like "Spears of the Dawn" being even mentioned in this thread at all.

I worry about this when I hear people mentioning Eberron's drow here. Okay, sure, they have dark skin and they live in tribes. Okay, so what? People with dark skin can live in tribes. Are they presented in a demeaning way? After all, it would be rather ethnocentric to look down on tribal cultures, wouldn't it?

I'm afraid I have to agree with Robin Low here:

Yup, that has to be one of the most interesting depictions of any kind of Elf I've seen. I'm not seeing racism there at all, but that may be down to what the word 'racism' means to me, which at its core is contempt. I'm certainly not seeing any contempt there, nor am I seeing ancient African tribal culture crudely slapped onto evil elves.

Regards

Robin


This doesn't strike me as a demeaning or contemptuous portrayal of drow. I can't find any signs of them being depicted as stupid or evil (at least, not any moreso than humans or other elves) or anything of the sort. The only way I could see someone seeing that as "racist" would be if they somehow thought that being represented as part of a tribal culture was somehow demeaning. In which case, people from tribal cultures might like to have a word with you...
 
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insomniac

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Actually, the black skin is still magic in DnD.

See, back when the elves were rebelling against the giants, some of the slaves were taught magic by the giants in exchange for helping put down the rebellion, and the giants changed their skin color so that they could easily see who was on their side in a fight.

Though many of the new drow immediately broke their oaths and joined the elf rebels, teaching elves magic for the first time. They are the ones from the picture. Others stayed loyal, who became the fire drow. I am not sure where the shadow ones fit into this.

To be honest, I am not sure if that makes it worse or better or what, but there it is.
There's a magical reason that their skin is literally black, but artwork shows plenty of non-drow elves with skin that's "black" (as in, 'black people' black rather than 'actually literally black' black).
 

komradebob

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Validated User
D&D definitely has a lot of examples of racism and sexism in it. I described some really egregious examples myself on the previous page (such as the disturbing case of Fighting Women or that a deity supposedly embodying objective Good has a holiday celebrated by initiating ethnic pogroms).
Actually, you didn't describe anything in reference to the pogrom holiday. You just mentioned it.

I still have no clue what you're talking about or why it is supposed to be a horrible example of racism.
 

VictorVonDoom

Hikikomori
Validated User
Another fun fact from D&D: Corellon Larethian, a greater deity embodying Chaotic Good, has an annual holiday called Agelong that is celebrated by initiating pogroms (organized massacres of particular ethnic groups).
The background material Doom has read is that elves celebrate Agelong by searching for orcs to slay in memory of Corellon's battle against Gruumsh, the god of the orcs. Doom has never encountered any "ethnic cleansing" mentions of which you speak (granted, Doom has not read Forgotten Realms source material post-TSR). What product did you come across this idea in?
 

LudicSavant

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The background material Doom has read is that elves celebrate Agelong by searching for orcs to slay in memory of Corellon's battle against Gruumsh, the god of the orcs. Doom has never encountered any "ethnic cleansing" mentions of which you speak (granted, Doom has not read Forgotten Realms source material post-TSR). What product did you come across this idea in?
Going around searching for members of a certain race to slay is what a pogrom is.
 
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VictorVonDoom

Hikikomori
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Dragon Magazine #3. Apparently you can find it here (first thing that came up on google): http://annarchive.com/files/Drmg003.pdf
The backlash against that piece at the time was also monumental...

John Peterson said:
The first serious backlash against perceived chauvinism in Dungeons & Dragons arose in 1976, after the publication of Lenard Lakofka’s article “Women & Magic,” which he distributed in the July 1976 issue of his obscure fanzine Liaisons Dangereuses. In October, the third issue of The Dragon reprinted the article and added the subtitle, “Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D.” In keeping with the wargaming tradition, Lakofka tries to specify a simulation of how women might measure up as adventurers. Virtually all of the level titles are changed: women Fighters, for example, may be “Battle Maidens” or “Valkyries.” He suggests that women “may progress to the level of men in the area of magic and, in some ways, surpass men as thieves,” though “only as fighters are women clearly behind men in all cases.” For Strength, Lakofka has women roll one d8 and one d6 (for a range of 2–14) instead of the traditional three d6; he furthermore grants women a “Beauty” attribute as a substitute for Charisma in baseline Dungeons & Dragons.

Most strikingly, Lakofka bestows to the characters of “Distaff Gamers” certain unique abilities that interact with the Beauty skill. Both female Thieves and Magic-users have access to the “Charm Man” and “Seduction” spells, which require certain Beauty scores to work against particular targets. The “Seduction” spell, for example, “may be used on living humanoid unharmed males only by women with the proper Beauty score.” Female magic-users of ninth level of higher earn the level title “Witch” and gain access to the “Horrid Beauty” ability: Witches with a very low Beauty score (“Grotesque Witches”) will scare victims when using this ability, in extreme cases causing instant death; whereas Witches with a high Beauty score will instantly seduce all (presumably male) targets.

The decision of The Dragon to publish Lakofka’s system was seen by the gaming community as endorsement from TSR, and thus it sparked outrage against not only Lakofka but also the company. The most iconic manifestation of the controversy was the inflammatory image published in Alarums #19 that showed a host of female characters lynching in effigy Lakofka, Gygax, and Tim Kask, editor of The Dragon.

Admittedly, much of the outcry in Alarums came from men who played female characters, rather than from female players. Lee Gold, for her part, simply noted that “my female characters have higher Constitution than Strength, males the reverse. Thus inspection of characteristics rolled determines gender.” Another woman, Kay Jones, provided the following commentary:

A verse for Len Lakofka, who’s earned the name of nerd,

For rules changes both chauvinist and patently absurd

And Kask, the man who published it, why earn your way to fame,

By publicly insulting all the players of the game?

Tim Kask responded to the controversy by insisting that Lakofka’s article was not canonical, and affirming, “I will even agree that it is sexist and puts women down.” But he countered, “I challenge you to submit a better way to treat the topic.” Lakofka’s account of female characters was certainly not the only one to appear in 1976. An article in the pages of Paul Jaquays’s fanzine The Dungeoneer entitled “Those Lovely Ladies” reinvented the Fighting-man, Magic-user, and Cleric classes for women as “Valkyries,” “Circeans” and “Daughters of Delphi,” respectively. It retained the Charisma stat and awarded women a blanket Charisma bonus, though the Charisma of women suffered if their Strength was too high. This piece too received pushback from a female reader, Judith Preissle Goetz, who concedes that “women have higher charisma as far as men are generally concerned,” but observes, ”you have ignored the complementary phenomena that men have higher charisma as far as most women are concerned.” She also takes exception to the notion that high Strength would render a woman unattractive, noting that “female athletes are often more sought after than other women.”

The Dragon would go on to print other accounts of female characters: one explaining “Why Males are Stronger than Females” based on the earlier “Warlock” system appears in the October 1977 issue, though it probably did little to assuage any concerns about sexism inherent in the game. A submission in November 1978 revisits the idea of a “Witch” class, and a gloss by Kask at the start notes that “it provides a very viable character for ladies; be they sisters, girlfriends, lady gamers or other. D&D was one of the first games to appeal to females, and I for one, find it a better game because of that fact.”
 
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LudicSavant

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Well, no, not really. That just seems kinda disingenuously put, to be honest.
Okay, what would you call it when you have a mob of people wandering around looking for people of a certain race to kill? :confused:

Actually, I don't even care what you want to call it. In my book, riling up a bunch of angry elves to go around searching for people to kill based on their race is not a nice thing to do.

Anyways, I suppose it's only an issue if you think the authors are claiming that Good and good are really the same thing. If Corellon Larethian is just a colossal jerk (not just in that case, either. Just look at what he does to Leraje, for instance. Or even the story of the drow) instead of a divine role model embodying objective good, I have no issue with it. *Shrug*

The backlash against that piece at the time was also monumental...
I consider that a good thing.
 
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Quantum Bob

Fear and Loathing
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Okay, what would you call it when you have a mob of people wandering around looking for people of a certain race to kill? :confused:
That's another can of worms, namely "evil" races.

I am not much of a fan of the concept. Either your race is really always evil, which would imply lack of free will and would make them more ... meat death robots instead of people, and would also make it kinda sorta okay to kill them on contact.

Or they're just mostly/culturally evil (this is by the way orcs are mostly portrayed) then it is not okay to just wreck their shit. I mean, it would propably still be okay to pick fights with orcish warbands or slaver camps or whatever. But just getting out and killing some random orcs? The writer propably didn't think that one through.
 
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