Wed
Apr 11 2012 11:00am

A Modest Proposal For Increased Diversity in D&D

A modest proposal to Wizards of the Coast: how about including a more diverse representation of ethnic background in your core product? You’re working on Dungeons & Dragons Next — some call it D&D Fifth Edition — and I think now would be a great time to welcome new players. A product where white wasn’t the default would be a welcome addition to the hobby. I’m not talking about niches like Oriental Adventures either; I mean in your main bread and butter books.

I don’t think this is a particularly insightful idea, and it shouldn’t be a controversial one, but it bears saying. How about we have a broader representation of heroes in the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons? I remember being pretty put out by the underwhelming racial portrayals of the Fourth Edition, so out of curiosity I went back through the last few editions of Dungeons & Dragons, just to see what the demographics are like.

Huge Disclaimer: This is hardly a scientific process, and I bring my own biases to the table; I’m a white male, so how I perceive race is going to be a tricky wicket, anyhow. Still, I sat down and went through to try to get some rough numbers; I discounted monsters and just tried to be…intuitively accurate. Me flipping pages and jotting down notes on the figures depicted in inherently going to be subjective, I don’t want to imply that it isn’t. My observations are also tilted toward a “black” and “white” dichotomy that isn’t really reflective of reality, either. I don’t want to minimize the impact of Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and other backgrounds or marginalize them in any way. Simply put, it was easier to deal with the extremes of the continuum of skin color.

That being said, I think it is useful for some rough generalizations. Like the fact that in the Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook there are only four black characters. There are more diabolically red skinned people — tieflings — then there are dark skinned people. By a…fairly wide margin. Still, an improvement over the Third Edition Player’s Handbook in some respects. In the third edition, you’ve got Ember, the human monk — but other than her initial appearance under the class description, she’s absent from the rest of the book. Some artists have depicted Regdar as black, and he along with some of the other character have a generous color palate, by which I mean that their ethnicity is fluid on the page. They are hardly pale but neither are they a deep brown in skin tone, lending them a lot of flexibility for reader identification. (Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics would be proud.) And just for kicks, I flipped through an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player’s Handbook; there is an illustration so purple it could be ambiguous, but no, that book, like so much of yesteryear, is entirely Caucasian. Lots of crazy mustaches, though.

I wanted to go through the Pathfinder Core Rulebook for the same comparison, but I got as far as the class breakdown and gave up. I’m on the record as liking Pathfinder, and I was worried I would be seen as partisan when I continued giving them their due accolades. I got to the classes and their iconic characters and realized that four out of the eleven classes are represented by people of color (well, five out of eleven, if you count the green and yellow gnome druid, but you know what I mean). What is more, the characters aren’t all depicted as coming from some homogenous near-European cultural background, either. There is a wide spectrum of skin tones between pale and dark, which the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons used ambiguously, but Pathfinder goes the rest of the way by including a range of cultural cues. The iconic characters inform the rest of the book; from them on out the representations of adventurers are diverse, because they are based on a diverse foundation.

I’ve heard a litany of excuses for why there are predominantly white people portrayed in roleplaying art, but I’m not buying it. Maybe your claim is that the people buying the game are primarily Caucasian? Since when did it become a bad idea to have a product that appeals to a wider demographic? Dungeons & Dragons exists in the real world. A world where there are people who aren’t white. People who might want to start playing, if they saw themselves reflected in the product. Why artificially limit your profits by only pursuing a narrow demographic? and what, do you think white players are incapable of identifying with people of color? I don’t agree, and I’d point to the widespread acclaim that Order of the Stick has gotten; even if your motive is unmitigated greed, I can think of 1,254,120 reasons to support a diverse cast and complex story telling.

Maybe your claim is that Dungeons & Dragons is based on a fantasy feudal Europe? Maybe your game is, but the whole point is that you can make whatever game you want; a diverse cast in your illustration just encourages that. And for that matter, are you seriously telling me that you think having a person with darker skin is somehow more of a strain on your suspension of disbelief than…a lizard lady or a devil dude? That somehow a polytheistic world of high fantasy is somehow inherently Caucasian? Pull the other one.

You wanna see a neat trick? “The now-vanished Nerath was a highly cosmopolitan empire encompassing many tribes and kingdoms, with immigrant populations from the far flung corners of the world.” There; just like that. Fixed.

In a nutshell — maybe the makers of D&D should take some of the effort being put into bending over backwards to explain why they don’t need to reflect the diversity in the real world…and put it into a flowering of diversity in their imaginary one.

(Ember art by Tom Lockwood; Seelah, Sajan, Kyra, Seoni by Wayne Reynolds; Roy Greenhilt by Rich Burlew; Green Lantern #76 panels by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams.)


Mordicai Knode knows that when you start something with “a modest proposal...” it usually goes on to be cut throat satire, and he’s sorry that he isn’t a modern Twain or Swift or Juvenal. He’s still sort of charming on Twitter though, if he does say so himself.

325 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
& while I'm at it: DONALD GLOVER FOR SPIDER-MAN!
Jon Rosebaugh
2. inklesspen
This isn't satire at all. I feel betrayed.
Mordicai Knode
3. mordicai
I know, I know! But then, can you imagine writing the satire? It would feel...icky. I don't think I have it in me.
JP Chapleau
4. JP Chapleau
NeoExodus (NeoExodus.com) a Pathfinder RPG setting makes a conscious and willing effort to have skin diversity.
JP Chapleau
5. bmcmolo
I get (and suppot) the point of those Green Lantern panels and all, but... didn't Green Lantern save the world, like, 220,000 times? That includes all skins, all animals, all philosophies, etc.

Very thoughtful article and the above quibble is not in response to anything, just an observation. I was happy to see Grant Morrison make the same point in Supergods.
JP Chapleau
6. James M.
Yeah, you lead off with "A Modest Proposal" for anything and I expect some big guns to come out.

Really, the inherent diversity -- both on ethnicity and gender -- is a huge positive for the art direction in Pathfinder. I still lose my mind when I open that book-- female Barbarian? Non-white, non-male Paladin?

Not to take the topic as another chance to laud Paizo and neg WotC by implication-- I think 5th edition is a huge chance to get some refreshing notes to the art team.

Also: I definitely remember some non-white guys in the AD&D handbook, although one of them was an illustration for a section on non-Western equipment / settings, I think? My memory's hazy.
JP Chapleau
7. SarahDarkmagic
Some of us in the D&D community are trying to change this at the grassroots level too. I started a Kickstarter to raise funds for diverse fantasy art, created by a diverse group of artists, some well-known, some starting out. We'll release the art to Creative Commons under the Atttribution, Share-Alike license in hopes that players, DMs, bloggers, and smaller publishers will use this art in their games and products. If you're interested, the project is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sarahdarkmagic/prismatic-art-collection
John Cater
8. katre
It's not from WOTC, but check out Sarah Darkmagic's Prismatic Art project, now on Kickstarter:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/14269308/prismatic-art-collection

"Prismatic Art Collection is a free library of art representing heroes of
all backgrounds.

In geek culture, there are plenty of Lukes, but not enough Landos or
Leias. We want to change that. We're raising funds to hire a diverse
group of artists to create fantasy art depicting heroes of all
backgrounds."
Mordicai Knode
9. mordicai
5. bmcmolo

I really liked Super Gods! I think the Green Lantern bit is silly but was an important moment for comics as it really makes a moment of cultural awareness. It speaks more about the real world than it does about the fictional DC world.
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
6. James M.

I thought maybe my self-deprecating bio made up for the casual use of "a modest proposal." Really, it FEELS modest. "Please increase diversity in your core product," is pretty reasonable, I think!

I don't want it to be anti-WotC at all! I think I'm inherently optimistic about DnD Next; I mention Pathfinder killing it because-- well, good job guys!-- & because these are lessons that Wizards of the Coast & everybody else should be learning from. I want the whole community to take it to heart.

As to AD&D I flipped through the one on my shelf & didn't see nuthin'? Might have missed it; as I mentioned, this wasn't a rigorous laboratory methods type study.
JP Chapleau
11. ElToro
So ..what percentage should it be before everyone is happy?
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

Why not just let the artists create art, the game be a game.

Why is D&D being used for race baiting?
Mordicai Knode
12. mordicai
7. SarahDarkmagic
&
8. katre

That is awesome! I didn't know about it, either...I have your blog in my feed reader, Miz Darkmagic, but I must have missed it. "We need more Landos & Leias" is a great tag line & "Prismatic Art Collection" is a fun title.
JP Chapleau
13. ElToro
The Prismatic Art project is a primary example of race-baiting. The noble white girl from Dartmouth is going to rescue the minorities and help them play D&D? I just don't beleive it. This is about white people making themselves feel like saviors.
Mordicai Knode
14. mordicai
11. & 13 ElToro

Why is asking for artists to create art with more diversity a bad thing? I mean, we ask for artists to do all kinds of things, like "make a picture of a female elf wearing mithril chain." It isn't an undue onus to ask people to consider the real world implications of assuming white as a default. How is it racebaiting to notice the imbalance? You're right that white folks need to check their privilige-- I do my best-- but it isn't "racebaiting" to try to present a multi-faceted portrayal, or to notice if one type of person-- lets say white males-- is being given undue weight.
JP Chapleau
15. FTHurley
The problem with labelling efforts like this as "race baiting" is that it basically means nobody can ever strive to change the world in a positive way because trolls on the internet who hide behind anonymity will just shoot it down as "race baiting," all while not actually doing anything of value themselves. Well done, internet. Well done.
Tracy Hurley
16. SarahDarkmagic
12. mordicai

Thanks! Yeah, Daniel Solis and I decided to do it after a conversation on Twitter. I'm really excited about it. I know it's important that we hit our target so we can do it, but I'm even happier about the number of people who are backing it and the stories I hear about how important this is to a number of them.
JP Chapleau
17. ElToro
I have no issue with that, I have issue with the motivation behind it though.

Everything I've read on this seems to suggest that 1) "everyone is a racist by default" unless they have specifically dedicated themselves to a cause like this, but it's the ultimate noble whitey cop-out.

Real racism is still out there- it involves violence, beatings and intimidation, not just "we didn't make the dwarf into a black character this time.." By suggesting that art diversity (and check the census before you start calling out percentages of which character needs to be what color if thats the route you want to go) is racism, well you've essentially made ''racism" something that's entirely excusable. A "whoops, I guess thats racist", instead of the actual serious moral crime that racism really represents. Your goal was to draw more attention to racism, but the effect long term is the opposite.

The other implication of this new race-shame thing is the suggestion that the primary attribute of a person is actually his skin color, and you can be the wrong race (ie, white). But it is itself a direct repudiation of Martin Luther King's famous speech: "
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a
nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by
the content of their character."

NOT be judged.

The content of your character (or character sheet) apparently doesn't mean anything though, right? You have to have the right race (not the wrong one) and you need some noble whitey to recognize and save us all? It's digusting.

All that work my generation did, ruined by the nobility.
JP Chapleau
18. James M.
11 & 13 - ElToro

Well-- it isn't about "race baiting," nor is necessarily an attack on the artists, or the designers, or the people playing these games. It isn't even about roughly mirroring the demographics of the real population, although I point out that "four out of eleven" non-whites and a 50/50 split of men and women in the Pathfinder iconics comes pretty close to matching the census data you cite; certainly closer than "all white guys, all the time."

It's about acknowledging that your audience is not made up solely of white males, and that non-white, non-male characters can be just as "iconic."

The narrative of people of privilege "assisting" de-privileged people is often fraught with complications, I agree; however, I suspect that you're underestimating the number and diversity of folks involved in the project. Also, the alternative -- saying to oneself, "As a person of privilege I can never be satifactorily in the right! Therefore, best to continue enjoying my privilege." -- is not desirable.

Really, the question is: Why do some white guys have a problem seeing non-white, non-male characters? What's the problem? Everyone else is wholly satisfied with their white male heroes! I mean, d'uh, it's the default, right?
JP Chapleau
20. leame
Personally, I would say it depends on the motivation. If you want more diversity in D&D art and lore because you are simply promoting it for the sake of "diversity" then in my opinion it is either race baiting or just a bad idea.

If you want more diversity because you feel it will improve the game by making it more interesting, more challenging, more realistic, more aesthetically pleasing or any other valid reason then in my opinion it's fine. The test for me is: Does this make sense in any regard other than racial politics? If yes, then it's not race baiting.

When people think of high fantasy, they think of a generic middle ages europe with elves and dwarves. Why force them to change their image? It's not hurting anybody. After all, this is Dungeons and Dragons and the whole point is to role play who you want to be. So if you want to be black, role play as a black person. Maybe they could release content packs specifically designed for players who want more diversity. Personally, I would not describe forcing Wizards of the Coast to insert more racially diverse characters as a positive change. Let them do what they want. If people don't like it, they won't buy it.
JP Chapleau
21. FTHurley
17. ElToro

I'm sorry that's how you view the world. That's really depressing. It's also sad that you seem to be making a variety of assumptions about the racial, ethnic, and gender identities of the folks involved in an art project. I think those assumptions speak volumes. Best of luck in your own endeavors to effect positive change in the world.
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
17. ElToro

I fundamentally disagree; you are right that there are real true racially motivated hate crimes out there. True & awful. I don't think that it is a zero sum game here though. I don't think increased portrayals of characters of diverse backgrounds somehow short circuits the criminal prosecution of race based crime.

In fact, the opposite. I think that the more culture-- or a subculture, in this case-- present a myriad of viewpoints & representations, the more people will realize that there ARE people who aren't white men. & that, for that matter, people who aren't white men ARE people.

I think the "serious moral crime" of racism is actually part of the problem. Somehow it has gotten to the point where we can only point out racism when people in white hoods with
swastika tattoos commit a violent crime. & that isn't the case at all. Racism isn't always a serious moral crime. It is ignorance, & assumption & all the small hobgoblins of cultural context. Pointing out that there is a predominantly white washed cast of characters in a book doesn't mean you are calling the creators of that product KKK members or Nazis. It is just pointing out how things could be BETTER. It isn't a serious moral failing; it is a correctable cultural flaw.
JP Chapleau
24. ElToro
I do agree with leame above. I hope that's clear. 2nd paragraph nails it.

And the thing is, I do think there should be diversity in art. But the idea that everything is racist until white from Dartmouth saves the day is infuriating. In 3rd edition, great care was taken so that there was no single identifiable ethnic look to any of the iconic characters (even Ember, above). By 4th edition they had dropped iconic characters, but it still remains.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
25. tnh
ElToro and everyone else: Name-calling and inflammatory language are not helpful, and will not be tolerated. This is an interesting and significant subject. Surely we can discuss it like rational fans.

Mordicai, I love that first illustration. Is it my imagination, or is it quoting Benin bronzes and Ethiopian architecture? Either way, it's a striking piece.
JP Chapleau
26. FTHurley
Anyway, thanks Mordicai for including those Green Lantern panels. That was cool. :-)
Tracy Hurley
27. SarahDarkmagic
20. leame

At least for the Prismatic Art Collection project, this is being done by people in the gaming community to meet their own needs and wants. I'm a woman and my partner in this is a person of color. We're doing it because we're tired of the lack of art that represents us in the fantasy genre. We're doing it because we received similar complaints and requests from other diverse people in the past. We're doing it because I've heard from far too many publishers that they want to include more diverse art in their products but they don't have the resources to create it themselves so they are often stuck with art that doesn't really represent their world. That's why we're doing it.
Mordicai Knode
28. mordicai
20. leame

I thought I addressed both your points in my original post; I think saying that high fantasy reflects the Middle Ages is a bit silly; a polytheistic setting with a diversity of humanoid species isn't what I'd call "historically accurate," & reflects modern American literature more than it does any sort of historical context.

It is weird that "to want to make money" is a more valid motive than "to create a better representation of real world ethnic diversity," but I mention that too. Reaching a wider demographic sounds like a pretty noble way to cash in. & you are right, the game lets you play what you want to play...so it should provide tools for people to play what they want to play! Sounds like you're working around to agreeing with me...but what? " content packs specifically designed for players who want more diversity"? I'm going to assume the best & that you mean things like "Oriental Adventures," which yeah, is cool, but I'm talking core product. Brand identity. "People who are not white men" should not be an optional sourcebook, because "people who are not white men" are not optional in real life.
JP Chapleau
29. Daniel Solis
Thanks, ElToro.

There are plenty of problems in the world for all of us to fight in our own ways. We've chosen this one problem and are attempting to address it in our own way. You might not find it to be an important problem — or even find our attempts productive – and that's totally fine. Continue promoting your values in your own way and we will do the same.

As for motivations, I can speak for myself. I grew up wishing there was a mixed-race Ghostbuster or a superhero I could dress as on Halloween. Now that I'm a grown art director for RPGs, I've made every effort to put a new face on fantasy heroes in my own products. (See the covers for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, The Book of Letters and Happy Birthday, Robot!) While doing so, I also want to promote the work of POC and female artists in the community, that's why I've hired Liz Radtke, Amy Houser, Mori McLamb, Kari Fry and other female artists for my projects.

The Prismatic Art Collection is an effort to expand that outreach beyond my own games. More diverse art. More diversity among professional artists. That's my goal.

Thanks again for your time, ElToro. If you want to discuss this with me personally, my email is gobi81 at gmail.
JP Chapleau
30. ElToro
You don't "point out racism", mordicai- you stand against it.

And by making it an excusable non-issue you have equated racism with a "correctable cultural flaw"?..what, like people who don't brush their teeth?

This is probably a generational thing, but of course when it comes back to haunt us all, it will never be you that pays the price. You realize that, right? When racism is "you know, like everyone kinda does but they should be aware of" rather than "oh, I ended upin the wrong neighborhood on the way home" it's not you that eventually has to worry anything about it. Because it's just about pictures and awareness for you.

FTHurley wants to derail the thread and make it about me arguiing with him, rather than this conversation, but I guess I've said what I needed to say. Call me a troll if you want.
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
24. ElToro

Yeah, I do find the slippery nature of the 3rd ed characters to be a valid way to go, though I would like to have seen as much attention given to the darker ends of the spectrum as was given to the paler...but yeah. In my personal campaign, the ethnic groups don't map to real world racial groups-- dark skinned people with epicanthic folds, pale skinned people with kinky hair-- but that is the difference between a campaign setting & a core product, you know?
Mordicai Knode
32. mordicai
25. tnh

Wayne Reynolds is a heck of an artist; I wouldn't put it past him. I sadly don't have the art history know-how to really say one way or the other...besides, yeah, agreeing that it is a kick-butt piece. I got her minature from my first batch of Pathfinder minis & was super excited.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
33. tnh
Leame, have you not noticed that D&D has always been multi-racial and syncretistic? More diversity is better worldbuilding.
Mordicai Knode
34. mordicai
27. SarahDarkmagic
&
29. Daniel Solis

I'm really glad you guys are both in this thread. d(o-o)b

(that is my little "two thumbs up" icon.)
JP Chapleau
35. Paul (@princejvstin)
When people think of high fantasy, they think of a generic middle ages europe with elves and dwarves. Why force them to change their image?
Why? Because in my opinion its parochial and self-limiting. And its been done to death.

Why shouldn't the default picture of the paladin be something we haven't seen often depicted? Say, someone who would not look out of place in the army of Saladin?

Show the readers, of all stripes, there are far more to even the default classes than they previously imagined.
JP Chapleau
36. FTHurley
I'm sorry if some folks found my comments derailing. I just take accusations of race baiting seriously, as that's an extremely loaded term to throw around at someone you haven't met. I'm frankly saddened that a term like that isn't considered inflammatory while a response to it is. I readily admit my response to it came from a place of anger, and I apologize for posting so quickly like that, but accusations of race baiting are akin to accusations of racism, and those accusations have a tendancy to stick around and cling to people no matter how unwarranted. I didn't see a way to silently report the comment as inappropriate, so I responded. Maybe that wasn't the best way to handle it, but if I randomly started calling people I hadn't met racists, I would imagine the community might not like that. I'd like to think we can all discuss a topic like this without throwing around terms like "race baiting" and "the noble white girl from Dartmouth." That's just wrong, and it's also not helpful. That's all I'll say about it. I just don't think those sorts of terms are appropriate, and I DO find them to be trolling.
Matthew B
37. MatthewB
I fully support increasing the diversity in games. A richer pallette spurs creativity, makes games better, and might help grow the hobby.

Misguided attempts at derailing (hint: FTHurley is not the culprit) aside, the title of the piece is not good. Don't invoke Swift unless you're going to follow in his footsteps.
Mordicai Knode
38. mordicai
30. ElToro

What, making a post calling for more depictions of people of color in gaming illustration doesn't count as fighting racism? What a world, what a world! You are right to not let the thread derail into ad hominem & such.

26. FTHurley

I'm glad you enjoyed the GL panels. I think ElToro is making a good faith disagreement with me, not trolling. I mean, I think he's WRONG, but then that is a...correctable cultural flaw. I joke! I kid! Mostly.
Mordicai Knode
39. mordicai
37. MatthewB
(...& 2. inklesspen & 6. James M...)

Mordicai: Note to Self: Don't title stuff "A Modest Proposal" unless willing to go through with scathing deadpan satire!

(Next post--"Gulliver's Travels in Oerth." Or "A Connecticut Yankee in The World of Darkness." Not sure which yet.)
Matthew B
40. MatthewB
I vote for the latter - the super-serious tone of WoD is begging for it.
JP Chapleau
41. James M.
24. El Toro

I think your feeling of frustration is real and natural-- "being in the right" is a privilege in and of itself, one that even the most self-checking folks are unable to part with. There is a very real way to trivialize issues ot race -- to find ways of unburdening yourself, and of recasting yourself as the savior instead of part of the problem.

Here, I think, the key is that it isn't strictly about race, but gender and all the different ways of being not white guy. Remember the kernel here: The post is about using a non-trivial platform (Tor.com) to call for more diversity in D&D, which everyone wants, and the comments draw attention to an independent project to encourage the same, led by a woman who wants to see more women in gaming and a person of color who wants to see more people of color in gaming. Neither one, I think, is inherently ignoble.
JP Chapleau
42. FTHurley
39. mordicai

The True-Born Sharnman? ;-)
JP Chapleau
43. TrevorGreen
I don't play D&D, but I'm a huge supporter of any attempts to diversify our fiction and recreation. I hope to see all the different cultures and ways of life represented in our many excellent book, games, and movies.
Mordicai Knode
44. mordicai
40. MatthewB

Be careful what you wish for...this is how stuff like "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons" gets started...
JP Chapleau
45. leame
27&28

First, I will say I am indeed a white male. Not only that, but a white male who grew up in the midwest where at my high school there were less than 10 people who were not white. I probably view diversity and race relations different than a lot of people raised in different areas of the country or in larger cities because of that. I just don't see it as a big deal. I respect people of all races, and when I do interact with people of other ethnic groups I get along just fine. I had several friends during college who were "diverse" and even lived for two years with a friend from India. I simply recognize that I want what I want and they want what they want. Those are sometimes different things based on each individual person's preferences and that is fine.

For example -- Yes I'm perfectly fine with a game that is primarily made up of white characters because it reflects my own life experiences. I think it's interesting to add a few characters who are more "diverse" because they stand out and make the game more fun. I don't want to buy a game which is made up of -for example- primarily black characters because I can't relate to that. In the same way, I wouldn't dislike, but also don't actively seek out, a game that has the "proper ethnic ratios" either because in my own personal experience they don't reflect the ratio I see every day on the streets.

There are people who want those things, and I believe that there should be games (yes, full games and not just content packs I wasn't very clear in my last post) for them. In my opinion, the motto should be "To each his own." Don't force a company to change their products. Instead, seek out a company already selling or create your own product that reflects what you want. Which it sounds like the Primastic Art Collection is doing, so that is great. It's not about making money, it's just about providing choice. There are people like me who prefer the traditional, less diverse scenarios because that is what we relate to. There are people who prefer something else. Each group should be able to get what they want. (Sorry for the wall of text)
JP Chapleau
46. James Davis Nicoll
Mordicai, are you familiar with John Kovalic's related efforts along these lines?

http://www.dorktower.com/2010/08/31/muskrat-ramblings-tuesday-august-31-2010/

So, I was lying in bed, poring over the (did I mention ‘very heavy’?) new book, when I suddenly realized something.

In more than 500 pages, with hundreds of photographs or literally thousands of miniatures, there wasn’t a single human mini painted anything other than Caucasian that I could see.

With hundreds and hundreds of human figures painted up, NOBODY thought to open a second shade of skin-tone?

I suspect some of the responses he got may look quite familiar to you.
Fred Kiesche
47. FredKiesche
I haven't played D&D since 1977, but one game of that era that definitely was "diverse" and non-European high fantasy was M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne, set on the world of Tekumel. Love to see that re-launched!
JP Chapleau
48. James Davis Nicoll
Yeah, Empire of the Petal Throne has something of a mixed record when it comes to relaunches and by "mixed", I mean "seemingly cursed". How many of the companies that published versions of it over the years are still around? How many vanished almost immediately after publishing EPT, leaving only memories and a scorch mark where their accounting books used to be?

I think the most recent edition (from Guardians of Order) can be still be found:

http://www.tekumel.com/gaming_rulesTEPT.html
Josh Jasper
49. joshjasper
TNH @ 33 - Sure, there have been different analogs for earth cultures in D&D since The Basic Set (can't speak for Chainmail), but that's not necessarily multicultural if it's presenting the cultures as secondary to a white pseudo-Europe, which is what Gygax managed in The World of Greyhawk, and what Cook/Metzner et al managed in the Mystra setting.

More on this not addressed to TNH, but my thoughts in general -

The vast core group of D&D settings are basically white pseudo-Europes, with some "ethnic color" thrown in on the fringes.

You'll seldom get a story told from the point of view of the colonized, or of the non European races unless it's an orientalist near-parody like 1'st edition Oriental Adventures.

I think efforts for "diversity" in D&D are interesting, but beyond having a few nonwhite characters, there's not a whole lot of really diverse, interesting, and non-Eurocentric settings out there, unless you're counting Dark Sun, which is certainly interesting, but still totally side steps portraying issues of rååace and culture conflicts as we see them in real life inside of a role playing area. Far too often "look, we're diverse" means "look, we portray a variety of skin colors, but none of that thinking about race conflicts in the game the way they work in the real world"

I'm guessing most people who game would rather just not think about that sort of thing, which almost certainly reflects how they think about the real world as well. Easily avoiding thinking about privilege while stroking ego for feeling "diverse" is a measure of privilege.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
50. tnh
Leame, let me get this straight: you have no problem relating to a game that includes a bunch of very different races, but you can't deal with one where there's color variation in the humans? Get along with you; you're not half trying.

Also: not everyone in Medieval and Renaissance Europe was Caucasian; and D&D has always strayed into regions and cultures where that definitely wasn't the default genetic mix.

For extra credit, go take a close look at portraits of Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, wife of George III and Queen of England.
JP Chapleau
51. SteveGFB
Hi,

Thanks for the article and subsequent generated discussion. I don't want to get involved with the politcal discussion, but I would like to say that I personally would enjoy seeing more varied interpretations of the fantasy genre, especially in the modern, less traditional RPG world.

I would however, like to discuss the older versions of D&D (or AD&D) as you said they were based on euro-centric fantasy stories, so it is understandable they would use traditional european fantasy archetypes, such as knights, faeries, elves, trolls, etc. However, while briefly dismissing Oriental Adventures, you don't even mention the Al-Qadim campaign (an arabian fantasy setting) or Maztica (aztec/inca fantasy) or even Dark Sun (future/alien apocalyptic fantasy) containing Brown Elves. I don't think that these campaign settings should be so easily dismissed, they delved deeply into different (non-european) cultures and drew out interesting fanstasy environments with great sympathy. I for one discovered lots of interesting cultural histories and philosphies (fantasy and real-world) from some of the TSR source books and campaign backgrounds. I think some credit is due to some of the TSR staff of the 80s and 90s, they exposed a generation of RPG players to a bigger world view, and deserve some credit for that.


Thanks,
Steve.
JP Chapleau
52. Anne5
I loved this post. I'm a girl gamer. There have been games I've had a hard time enjoying because it was so painfully obvious that women weren't considered part of the target audience at all (Ascension's a great deck building game, but it's full of half-naked girls looking passive and wind-swept). I don't like playing it -- I spend the entire game squirming against the artwork. Artwork has power. So, artwork for DnD that welcomes a wide range of people? Yes, yes, yes.
JP Chapleau
53. jere7my
leame@45: Yes I'm perfectly fine with a game that is primarily made up of white characters because it reflects my own life experiences. I think it's interesting to add a few characters who are more "diverse" because they stand out and make the game more fun. I don't want to buy a game which is made up of -for example- primarily black characters because I can't relate to that.

The trouble is that white males like you and me get an awful lot of products that we can relate to. It's nice, I suppose, that you want there to be mostly-black RPGs and mostly-Indian RPGs and mostly-Korean RPGs, but if you browse the gaming shelves you'll see that for obvious economic reasons they don't exist — or, if they do exist, they're produced by small companies that don't have the market penetration of D&D. For better or worse, D&D is the king of RPGs; if someone of a given skin color goes to a gaming con and wants to sit in on a game, they're probably not going to find one tailored to their particular hue — unless that hue is white.

I grew up in New Hampshire — and let me say that the mountains aren't the only thing that's white up there. I knew exactly two black people in my high school. But you know what else New Hampshire doesn't have? Dragons. Gelatinous cubes. Wands of wonder. It doesn't have owlbears, unless you believe One-Tooth Joe. I was already stepping into an unfamiliar world when I chose to play D&D; why not put some people in it who were unfamiliar to fifteen-year-old me, too? That's one of the great things about RPGs — they help you become familiar with new things. People growing up in near-monocultures, like you and me, need all the images of diversity we can get. The fact that they might make RPGs more approachable for people of other cultures is a side benefit.

The medieval world wasn't so great for women, you know. Joan of Arc excepted, there weren't a lot of female paladins. Someone choosing to play a "traditional" medieval game probably wouldn't want to allow female thieves and fighters and clerics. But that person would be accused of excluding women from gaming. And, y'know, I haven't seen complaints about the female adventurers in the PHB since the late 70s. Maybe they still complain, I dunno. But it is certainly true that today I know a lot of female gamers, which was a rare breed in the early days of RPGs. Seeing people like themselves in the source books and on the covers of Dragon probably helped bring them into the fold.

If you want to run a strict medieval Norse campaign, there's nothing wrong with that — D&D is certainly flexible enough for that. If WotC wants to release an All-Thing Adventures expansion, that's cool too. But why not make the default setting one that speaks to everybody?
JP Chapleau
54. justif
I note that the current D&D creative director has mentioned reading this letter along similar lines, asking for more inclusive art.

Monte Cook has a relevant anecdote about the art for 3rd edition:
When I worked at TSR, there was always basically a truism in cover art--the central figure had to be a white male. Most of us actually helping to create the cover art, either by conceiving it or actually creating it, hated that kind of outlook, but the powers that be believed that our audience was entirely white males and they needed someone that they could identify with on the cover. This was absurd for two reasons:
1. You're talking about a game where you pretend to be elves, halflings, or other things that are different from you, is it so hard to believe that the people who engage in this hobby might be able to see beyond themselves?
(Apparently so, for some people.)
JP Chapleau
55. Kalontas
As a Dungeon Master, to avoid similar problems, I usually establish what range of skin colors and "races" based on Earth ethnicities live in a certain region, and then when making a random characters (e.g. random dude on the street, a guard captain who's got just two lines and isn't meant to be important) I just roll for their appearance. Gender, ethnicity, hair color, etc., sometimes including a roll for race (actual fantasy race, i.e. lizardfolk, goblin, etc.). When designing important characters, I often have a particular concept in mind, and it carries a certain image in my head - which makes a lot of them white human males, cause that's what I am.

So my "modest proposal"? When you choose a character to draw as a representation for the class, use this "random roll for appearance". This way, with enough examples, all possible races, ethnicities, genders etc. should be represented fairly equally - or at the very least without an unintentional bias caused by your own person.
JP Chapleau
56. bknabe
I'm white. My wife is black. I introduced her and her siblings (ages 14-20 at the time) to rpg's. Strangely, they were never concerned that the art in the books didn't include many minorities. They were concerned with having fun, which we did.

Maybe in the D&D world subspecies of humans are exceedingly rare. Maybe they don't even exist. Maybe all of the 'diversity' energy went into creating all the non-human intelligences. Moving prejudice from human races to non-humans is how racism and prejudice are routinely dealt with in fantasy and scifi anyway.
Mordicai Knode
57. mordicai
54. justif

Oh man, thanks for these links. I'd read the Cook anecdote before & largely forgotten it-- I think it was after I played/watched the interactive DnD DvD game Scourge of Worlds-- but the Open Letter is new to me. It really highlights what I want people to take away. I'm not trying to denigrate WotC-- I'm just pointing out that they have a chance with DnD Next to be the heroes, to provide that diversity. Go Team Multiethnic DnD!
Mordicai Knode
58. mordicai
56. bknabe

Moving "race" from ethnicity to species is something neat about the game-- & the X-men-- but it also brings up another kettle of worms. Namely, post-colonial agression & the orc. When is breaking into someone's house to kill them & steal their stuff heroic? Answer: when you call it a "dungeon delve!" The act of a bunch of white dudes killing a bunch of non-white orcs is a perfect example of how & why real world ethnicities need to be addressed.
JP Chapleau
59. Orphansmith
I read this article when it was boomeranged to me via twitter from Rich Burlew, also the Prismatic Art Project. As for my background, I'm half-black, from Chicago and I've gamed regularly with all sorts of folks since the early 90s.

I feel that, while the motivations in this article and the Prismatic Art project come from the very best and sincere of intentions, stuff like this really bothers me. When I sit down to play a videogame, especially an RPG where I can make my own character, and the skin slider only goes into "lightly browned" territory, I personally feel bad and even get a little angry that I can't make a character that resonates with me, or who is me (but in armor and flying on a dragon and kicking ass.)

On the tabletop, it's a different story. I'm not constrained by whatever art's in the book. I've been gaming since my father ran a game where me and my brother were dwarves, constantly dying in Strahd and my father's unfair d20 rolls. Sometimes I wish that I could have a cool representation of my character drawn, then I realize I have an art degree, and just do it. As for my friends who don't have art degrees, if any of them wanted a depiction of their character, I or another friend or someone on the internet who likes money and exchanges drawings for said money facilitates that notion.

Because of this I really, really, really want to like the Prismatic Art project. My problem is I don't like the feeling I get behind the project. It's just insulting, like I need to be catered too. The game is about imagination, I don't open D&D books and get all upset that it's all European guys! I mean, it's cool we have Salador Saans, Roy Greenhilts and all that, but I don't like the feeling that WotC isn't representing me because they can't for whatever reason.

I don't need people like Mordicai or Ms. Hurley fighting for me. My Dad's black, and he learned to play D&D and showed it to me and my brother, back in the AD&D times. Hell, he played 1st edition, he still has his brown box packed away in the garage.

I just don't understand all the "well, I feel left out of the genre" feelings going around. I can maybe understand it for women because a lot of fantasy art is objectification, but on the other hand I'm not a woman so I don't know, I can only go by what my female friends tell me. Greyhawk is based on European fantasy, so I expect there to be mostly European people, and to tell you the truth, I like the fact that of the races of 4E that appear human almost half of them have art depicting people of non-caucasian descent. But to be honest, I find this article really unfair in pulling out books and counting when in Pathfinder all of the iconic characters are A) from Golarion which is a wholly different and more recent setting than freaking Greyhawk, and B) that half of the dang races in the 4E books are essentially monsters.

You're not going to see a hispanic dragonborn.
There are no such things as asian devas.
Nobody's ever going to see an albino teifling from the middle-east.

4E has more blue, green, purple, crystal, red, chitin and slimy skinned races than our basic melanin set. In fact, if I was to sit down and make an argument about "representing races" 4E would come out on top for taking the Gene Roddenberry approach.

Look guys, I know your intentions are pure, and you're trying to "represent everybody", but it really feels insulting to me. Like I can't enjoy something and need to have all races included in certain products. I like and expect Golarion to look the way it looks because of the nature of that setting, and the nature of Pathfinder. And in 4E me and my friends expect that most of us are not going to be humans, or even humanlike (there's always that one elf though.)

And, in the end, I do respect the Prismatic collection, but it still kind of offends me. I'm just tired of all my life people acting like I need to be catered to, or coddled. That I need to be represented. Sometimes, I agree (why can't I play a black blood elf in World of Warcraft?) but in DnD? The escapist fantasy game powered by my imagination? I don't really need help, and I don't think many other people want that either.

Just, one or two characters of asian or hispanic or non-european descent, that's cool. And if it's like Golarion I'll buy it because I like the middle-eastern and north african focus. But when I'm not interested in that, you don't need to include everything to make me feel involved, y'know. The Prismatic Color Collection would be better, in my mind, if it was just like "here's some extra character art types that aren't seen as often in art for your games" instead of that cheesy line about "enough Luke's and not enough Landos."

I dunno, maybe my opinion's in the minority (lol), or doesn't matter at all. But it really does bug me. It feels like reverse-racism. Can't I just stab goblins and burn kobolds without someone jumping in to "help represent me"?
Mordicai Knode
60. mordicai
51. SteveGFB

I dismissed "Oriental Adventures," "Dark Sun," etc because I wanted to talk about core products. Oh man I sure like me some "Tekumel," some "Rokugon," but those are outside of the heart of the product identity.

Furthermore, they represent a concerted effort to create a place, & that has its own challenges. If you ran a polar ice campaign where winter wolf riding halflings fought frost giants & panserbjorn were the best customers of the semi-Nordic dwarven smiths...& they were all white or Asiatic...well, that is a motif, you know?
JP Chapleau
61. Bernie S
I agree with Mordicai, but feel that both Wizards and Paizo will need to take things a few steps further in the long run—adjusting their editorial approach around topics like slavery, colonization, and the internal coherence of 'other' cultures within their worlds. Lengthier post at my blog, Alltogetherhuman.org.
JP Chapleau
62. Mariah
A few of points I was wondering about. From the get-go, I want to make clear that I’m on your boat. However, I am trying to imagine what the fears might be at WotC:

1. To accomplish something like this, at the first, it would have to be worked at actively, within the company, as an agenda – you know what I mean? There would come a time when it would “come naturally” were it to become an inherent feature of the artwork, but for now people would have to make a conscious, active effort to change the default. Practically, this means emails, meetings, trainings, consultations, etc.: a lot of looking inward at their own ranks at WotC, and not just at the artist level.

I wonder – what is the diversity within WotC itself? I’m not saying there are no non-whites. Honestly, I’m not sure! But if the company itself is overwhelmingly white, you can imagine how people might consider it a little uncomfortably gauche to start an ethnic diversity campaign within a setting like that.

I am not saying it is not worthwhile! It is. It should happen. But you can see why a large company might be a little reluctant to engage with such issues, especially because….

2. Can it stop with art?
When you are portraying racial diversity, is it sufficient… no, is it possible…? to stop with just diversifying the art? Would you be forced to engage with racism and tension and prejudice within the story medium itself? You know, it’s easy to talk about “racism” between, say, elves and humans, because it’s not real to people in the same way. All of a sudden, when you are roleplaying a human from THIS culture, and they meet a human from THAT culture with different facial features and skin color, roleplaying racism could… well, it could add a lot to your game! Or it could take it in an awkward, unintendedly ugly direction, a little too non-game to the folks sitting around you. I don’t know. But you can imagine why WotC might want to stay five hundred miles away from anything that might force them to spend many pages dealing with prejudice between different groups of humans within their own sourcebooks.

Just having a white default in your product is so comfortable, because you can add a generous sprinkling of non-white, and it adds flavor, a tiny bit of contrast, and nobody really has to spend too much time thinking in-game whether this character’s midnight black/café au lait/olive/albino pale skin is threatening to everyone they meet. If all of a sudden, there’s a not a comfortable default, will it make people conscious about it during the game? Will that make players uncomfortable? Is WotC afraid of bringing that real-world baggage into the game? 3. One thing that worries me is that many D&D artists may not actually be up to the task of portraying diversity. Diversity is a lot more than skin color, is it not? I mean, to me – it is not sufficient to just use a different color palate on the otherwise European-with-pointy-ears facial and body type they are portraying. As an example: http://www.cedarseed.com/fire/tutorials.html (Asians, Caucasians, Africans/Pacifids) There are three tutorials for drawing different “ethnic types” here which I am not touting, per se. – it is a sticky wicket to start saying “people from here look like this!” Mostly I just wanted to point out the wide variety of potential features that may or may not be part of an artist’s repertoire. It takes practice to be able to draw different sorts of humans.

3. Is just swapping out palates for skin color enough? It’d be a start, I guess. Should we be considering different facial and physical builds which may be jarring for players? Because this may be a lot more difficult for artists, especially for ones who are forced to conflate the idea of “beautiful people” into “beautiful art.” (It is harder to make a beautiful image of an ugly person, that is, so a less qualified artist would avoid it.)

Many American players are conscious enough of their own racism to never negatively comment on someone’s skin type openly, but when you start putting different cheekbones, wider lips, broader brows, etc, in the mix, people are not as conscious of that! Familiar enough to feel safe, people might just feel they’re looking at ugly characters. (There’s actually a not all that wide a representation of human variety within even the white characters, when you get beyond the sameness of skin.)
Tracy Hurley
64. SarahDarkmagic
59. Orphansmith

We're not trying to represent you in the way you mention. The people working on the project are, for the most part, trying to represent themselves or their friends, all of whom have cried out for this work. I'm a woman. I want more women in RPG art that aren't objectified or assigned to the magic classes. Daniel has a mixed race background and would love to see more art like him. I have other friends, like Quinn Murphy, who also want to see more diversity in the art. So we got together to actually do it, pay the artists a fair wage for it, and make it usable by anyone. It's cool if you're not really interested in that, but I don't see why other people's desires need to be torn down or false motivations assumed.
Mordicai Knode
65. mordicai
59. Orphansmith

I mean, you are right to point out that this isn't some "white man's burden" version of Dangerous Minds or something. That being said...it doesn't strike you as weird that there are more dragonborn than there are black skin tones in the PHB? Because it strikes me as weird. You mention Gene Roddenberry though, which is a little weird, since Uhuru (for instance) was sort of a pivotal figure in television portrayals of people of color.
David Moran
66. David Moran
James M.: It's been a while, but my memory of it is that the 2nd edition books are significantly more diverse than what came after.
Tracy Hurley
67. SarahDarkmagic
65. mordicai

I know a number of PoC actors who point to Uhuru as the turning point for them, when they realized that they too could be enter that profession. According to this CNET article, Dr. Martin Luther King asked to stay on, even though she wanted to leave after the first season, because he thought it was important that people see her on the show, despite the problems of how her character was depicted.
David Moran
68. David Moran
@ SarahDarkmagic: Oh what? That is awesome! Pledged.
JP Chapleau
69. ElToro
Well, personally, I've enjoyed reading all of Sarah's white pals on twitter insulting me. I guess it only goes so far, you either lay there and allow the white saviors to swoop in to help or you keep your mouth shut. This isn't about us. this is about making people feel good about themselves.

But Orphansmith has it right. It's insulting. It feels insulting. Thats all.
JP Chapleau
70. James M.
59. Orphansmith

The Prismatic Art Collection isn't about you exactly-- it's about a woman being pissed that, say, WotC produced maybe ten female miniatures for their D&D line and maybe half of those were non-sexualized. And then taking the next step-- "Well, if this totally sucks for me, it probably also sucks for everyone else who isn't looking to play a white guy." If anything it's more self-motivated than it seems.

61. Bernie S.

Yeah, this is for me a constant source of trouble when I play in "traditional" games; Paizo kind of doubles down on Orcs by making it explicit that they are inherently sinister and brutal as a race; that it's sort of hard-coded into them in the same way that a +2 Dexterity is hard-coded into Elves. I suspect this is a version of The Nazi Principle-- Nazis are so appealing as bad guys because you can kill them without feeling bad about it. In an adventure game that focuses on combat you want to have punching bags that you don't feel bad about. Making Orcs somehow inherently inclined towards raiding villages (by the will of the gods or something? I'm not too up on the mythology of the Pathfinder setting) is lazy and problematic.
JP Chapleau
71. bknabe
58. Mordicai

Good point. In stories and movies that is the kind of situation that is used to point out the horror prejudice and bigotry. In games - not so much, though it has been known to happen.

Which is actually the point I was trying to make. Monochromatic artwork is the least of the 'racial' problem in games. It might be the most obvious to someone who only reads the books in the store, but attitude of superiority of the adventurers and the assumed 'right' to do what they do is more problematic, and perhaps more indicative of our own racial assumptions.
Mordicai Knode
72. mordicai
70. James M.

I think once some of the hubub around here dies down I might write another post dealing with orcs, int penalties & the notion of the "savage Other." Stir things up again.
David Moran
73. David Moran
20. Leame: "When people think of high fantasy, they think of a generic middle ages europe with elves and dwarves."

Can you not even imagine why some people might find the statement "When people think of fantasy, they think 'white'" to be problematic in a lot of ways? Fans who cling to the old saw that "no, fantasy by definition is white" are not doing the genre any favors. There is no excuse for the literature to be as male-dominated and Eurocentric as it is, when it is MADE UP. High fantasy is whatever we tell it to be.

And your "if POC or women don't like it, well they don't have to buy it" is really aimed at continuing to exclude demographics from the genre and the hobby that have always been excluded, which is unfortunately the attitude of a not inconsiderable number of current readers and players.
Mordicai Knode
74. mordicai
71. bknabe

The best way to bring the weird genocidal politics of breaking into an orc tribe's cave to kill them is to give them children. "Oh hey, here are all the babies of the monsters people you just killed murdered!"

I don't think addressing the monochrome heroes is pointless; for one thing, you can do both! I think it is a bit of "as above, so below" so to speak-- it is an overall attitude, & adjusting seemingly inoccuous things like an all white all dude case of heroes can really make a big long term impact.
Tracy Hurley
75. SarahDarkmagic
69. ElToro

You're leaving out a number of people of color who also disagree with your argument.
David Moran
76. David Moran
47. FredKiesche Oh dip, +1 one for bringing Tekumel into the conversation. (I'm surprised it took this long, honestly.)
JP Chapleau
77. bknabe
59. Orphansmith

Very well said. White people (meaning me, too) can get so caught up in whether or not we're being racist that we forget to just treat people as people. Do that and most of the time you'll be ok.
David Moran
78. David Moran
51. SteveGFB Oh man, I loved Al Qadim. While exoticizing and Orientalizing Arab and Persian culture in a 1001 Nights way - big time - I also thought it maybe contained the most nuanced portrayal of a nonEuropean culture in any D&D product yet. I still try to get my players to go for a 2e Al Qadim game once in a while.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
79. tnh
Various and sundry:

To the extent that a political movement is successful, it will come to include members who are different from the people who started it. That isn't being co-opted; that's winning.

FTHurley @36:
I'm frankly saddened that a term like that isn't considered inflammatory while a response to it is.
I considered the term plenty inflammatory, but I hadn't issued a warning yet. That one comment of yours that got unpublished was removed because it was a direct response to someone else's comment that got unpublished.
I readily admit my response to it came from a place of anger, and I apologize for posting so quickly like that, but accusations of race baiting are akin to accusations of racism, and those accusations have a tendancy to stick around and cling to people no matter how unwarranted.
Understood. I've been there myself.

The SF community has a big backlog of talking it needs to do about race. Bottling it up has led to compression and thus heat, so we get some explosions when the topic's opened. It's completely understandable that that should happen; but if real talking is ever going to get done, we need some sustained conversations that don't explode.

Josh, my impression has been closer to what SteveGFB describes. Gary Gygax may have initially imagined an all-white universe, but he was just the fallible vessel through whom the revelation passed. Over time, the diversity of the real world has crept back in.

Want to see something funny? Type "D&D" race into Google. You get about a zillion hits. The pictures alone are enough to tell the story. It's absurd to have a game that plays so much with races, but has never dealt with race.
JP Chapleau
80. James M.
69. ElToro

A cursory examination of some of the twitter buzz -- and I should reiterate that I disagree with you on a fundamental level -- definitely seems a little inappropriate. Getting into an argument with someone and seeking support from your like-minded friends is fine; Twitter is, however, a very public space. The tone of your statements -- 13 and 24 especially -- was inappropriate and over-the-line and you deserved to be called out on it; but it's still problematic to pretend to treat with someone who disagrees with you in a civil, intelligent way in one public space and then denigrate you as a troll in another equally public -- but much safer and more agreeable -- space. There's clearly been a breakdown of civil discourse here; who fired the first shot is, as usual, immaterial.

I disagree with your complaints; I think you're fixating on on an implication -- that the Prismatic Art Collection is a charity project undertaken by white people to benefit minorities -- that isn't there but your outrage is real; the self-congratulatory trivialization of race issues is absolutely real. There's no merit badge one can earn as a person of privilege that exempts one from being a person of privilege. The notion that you can do so is a very real and very insidious expression of that privilege-- but I think you're wrong in detecting it at work here.
Tracy Hurley
82. SarahDarkmagic
79. tnh

I'm having a hard time seeing how ElToro's comments don't run afoul of the moderation policy of this site. He's referred to my race a number of times, brought up the immaterial fact of where I went to college in an attempt to paint me as something that I am not, made it about me and not the project, and other comments that appear to violate at least the first four tennets listed on the Moderation Policy page.
Mordicai Knode
83. mordicai
81. bob01

Actually, yeah, I would like to see less ableist & heterocentric direction in the art now that you mention it.

When you say "keep your real life junk out" you realize that RPGs exist in the real world, right?

Or are you calling for an end to white people in the art, too? From now on only green elves, indigo dwarves & orange orcs? Okay, count me in. Divorcing the game from ANY real world ethnicity is an interesting way-- sort of cartoony, but that can work if done right.
JP Chapleau
84. Dennis N. Santana
I am a puertorican who disagrees with El Toro's argument and has been lumped in with SarahDarkMagic's "white friends." I will not engage comments on how "puertorican" I may be, which seems a sad and common thing when speaking to latinos about race now.

I can't currently afford to back the project, though I would if I had money to spare, and I am not a part of it neither as an artist or a writer. I'm some guy who agreed with SarahDarkMagic/Tracy Hurley on twitter, and who also is a huge snarkboat, especially on these subjects.

I don't think El Toro can be persuaded to accept the points of view of others on this issue, and I am not going to engage him in this comment thread, neither now, nor any replies he makes. He's said his piece, I think, and he will keep saying it. I am going to post my view for others to read and decide for themselves what they think.

Racist discrimination is not just racially-motivated violence or persecution. It is not just being violently attacked in "the wrong neighborhoods." It is also an ideology that casts people out of "normality" and "others" them from the perspective of that which it has chosen to represent as "normal," "common" or in the worst cases, "correct" either morally or via an argument-to-nature.

I believe that media can use more representations of people because otherwise they are invisible. It is easy, right now, for you to pick up practically any fantasy game and just play a default male European. And for the majority of these fantasy games, they have long since stopped living in any semblance of reality. D&D inhabits crazytown – the stars over Nerath are giant flesh-planets with magical tentacles that actively hate the inhabitants. Owlbears threaten the countryside. Mind Flayers plot to blot out the sun. Dragonpeople are a culture that once dominated the planet. There's very little excuse here.

Yet when women, people of color and others enter the picture, many people have to stretch disbelief to accept them. Many times, they are hardly in the art, and their cultures don't (and in many cases gamers would argue, can't) exist in any meaningful fashion. We are a highly media-driven culture and yet our media hardly represents a large portion of us. I support projects like this because it is done by gamers within their culture to support better representation of people like me, who otherwise hardly exist in the fantasy worlds that we love and engage in so much. This is not for anybody's edification or salvation.

Do I think having diverse art in D&D, and being represented in my hobbies, is going to end racism? Of course not. Do I think I am saving anybody, is that my motivation? No. Do I think it'd help minorities, women, as well as homosexual, bisexual and transgender persons, if they could see themselves in the media they consume? I think it would. I think it would help everybody if we could find more representations, more characters, more heroes, more role models, for people of all kinds, and not just white males. It primarily helps the people who consume this media to feel connected in a greater sense, but it'd also help the culture at large to witness people of all kinds in their media. It'd help those subcultures to more readily accept everyone within them, in the media consumed and outside of it. Done correctly it could help disperse ignorance about origins, lifestyles and cultures that are near-to invisible in some of the most widely-consumed media today.

Make of that what you will. I can't write a sourced thesis on this issue, nor do I want to. I think Tracey's motivations have been cast in an ugly light, and I think this PROJECT, as a whole: the artists, originators and backers' all, don't deserve this vitriol.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
85. tnh
James M., ElToro, can we please not import fights from other venues?

Or let me put it this way: we will not, thank you very much, import fights from other venues.
Tracy Hurley
86. SarahDarkmagic
83. mordicai

There's a reason our logo is a triangle with a rainbow (although we modified it for skin tones). :) One of the reasons I wanted James Stowe to work on the project is he did this awesome character sheet for a friend of his.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
87. tnh
Sarah, console yourself that you're not the only person in this thread who's been obliged to calm down more than they thought they should have to.
Jeremy Ward
88. stormcrow27
For those who are interested in non-European, non-WOTC or Pathfinder 3 to 3.5 settings with a lot of diversity, or at least a variation from old European white guys with pointy hats and broadswords, I would try the following.

Nyambe-
http://www.amazon.com/Nyambe-African-Adventures-D20-System/dp/158978023X



This is an excellent Sub-Saharan (or even pre-Saharan) Africa supplement, and the art is extremely above par. The line is pretty well supported.

Also
http://www.amazon.com/Egyptian-Adventures-Hamunaptra-Mythic-Vistas/dp/1932442332/ref=pd_sim_b_9

Green Ronin produced a large number of alternate settings that weren't based on European/Euro-Indian backgrounds, including Hamunaptra,
http://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Vistas-Mindshadows-Roleplaying-Campaign/dp/1932442006/ref=pd_sim_b_6

Mindshadows, which is Far East Psionics
http://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Vistas-Mindshadows-Roleplaying-Campaign/dp/1932442006/ref=pd_sim_b_6

http://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Vistas-Testament-Scott-Bennie/dp/0972675620/ref=pd_sim_b_1

Roleplaying in the Biblical Era, which has a ton of ethnicity, figures into the prime religious doctrine of the West, and is extremely well done.

And more so.

I've played D&D for 28 years with all sorts of players, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc, and unfortunately, white characters often were the norm (except for the large majority who didn't play humans, since we are really, really, really boring.) I would love to see much more done with cultures, legends, feats, etc incorporated into the main D&D line, but WOTC will need a massive corporate change or culture shock to indulge in it. I think third party vendors will address the lack of diversity as they always have.
Mordicai Knode
89. mordicai
83. mordicai

Yeah, your Bran Starks, Barbara Gordon & Charles Xaviers are perfectly valid heroes!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
91. tnh
Stormcrow27, those are some very constructive suggestions, and I thank you.

If you're going to do more of that, may I suggest you try out the blue-green icon at the top of the text entry box? Just highlight your link text, click on that icon, and paste your URL into the dialogue box. It'll generate proper HTML links, which look much spiffier.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
92. tnh
Al-X, I sympathize with your points, but it seems unfair to argue with ElToro in detail when so few of his comments have survived.
Alejandro Melchor
93. Al-X
@92. tnh

Apparently my comment didn't survive as well ^^. I apologize for calling ElToro an -ism epithet, since that was kind of an attack and fully intended, but positions like his annoy me, being Mexican myself and sharing @84. Dennis Santana's position. I don't want to be represented by such one-sided, extreme reactions.
Kimani Rogers
94. KiManiak
Interesting post; thanks Mr. Knode. I love the artwork; especially the topmost piece (with the file name of Seelah? Mr. Reynolds is incredibly talented).

I will admit that I’m not a D&D fan, but that I do appreciate the discussion (any discussion) on diversity in any fantasy-world type depiction.

(I have read a number of the more popular fantasy series, both historically and currently (Lord of the Rings, Belgariad, Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan) and I will say that one of the reasons (in addition to it being incredibly well-written) that I love Malazan and place it in my top 3 Fantasy series is that there is such a diverse group of characters.

And that diversity isn’t just in races (human, non-human) and religions, but in what we would label ethnic groups (even in the non-human classes; the 3 Tiste races are dark, gray and fair skinned; the Barghast have different clans; even the K’Chain have short and long-tailed “races”).

As for gender, Erikson does an excellent job of representing both genders as strong, powerful, flawed, individuals that you can cheer for or despise at your preference. Rulers of nations, leaders of armies, and heads of mystical realms can be male or female, and the gender makes no noticeable difference to the characters in the Malazan universe; just their competency).

Anyway, I am enjoying the discussion regarding diversity in different types of fantasy, and I appreciate each poster’s comments, as they also show a diversity in the perceptions of what is an acceptable representation of race/ethnicity/gender in this arena.

I may disagree with certain posters opinions about whether or not they support the Original Poster’s comments regarding diversity and its place in D&D and related works, but I think that having their opinions added to the discussion makes the discussion stronger and more interesting.

Diversity of thought (and perception) makes the discussion better (or, at least, the sharing of said diversity in a respectful manner does). Of course, I tend to believe that diversity tends to make most things better.

So, I’ll just add that I’m all for a better representation of diversity in D&D artwork. Good luck to Sarah Darkmagic’s and Daniel Solis’ Prismatic Art project. I hope that, and other like-minded projects, provide numerous quality options so that Mr. Knode won’t feel the need to bring up a similar discussion topic in the hopefully not too distant future.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
95. tnh
Al-X, I hereby officially decree that ElToro does not represent you. Thanks for the calm reaction.
Mordicai Knode
96. mordicai
62. Mariah

RE: 1-- I don't think it would have to be a total overhaul; or rather, it can start as a trickle & then become a deluge. A simple overhaul of the art direction guidelines, for instance. Like I mention with Pathfinder-- they built a diverse cast of iconics...& so whenever the iconic characters are used, bam. It carries through.

As for in-house diversity...I don't know!

RE: 2-- I mean I suspect that the answer is "why SHOULD it stop with art?" I mention a deluge...maybe an avalanche is a better metaphor. Pebbles & then the whole shebang?

RE: 3-- it is more complicated than just skin tones, but like I said in my disclaimer...that is harder to really catch in a concrete fashion. You are right, I want to see kinky hair & epicanthic folds, I want to see broader noses & all that jazz. (As an aside: In my game I like to mix & match "racial" traits because while "human," the people aren't from our planet, you know?)
Mordicai Knode
97. mordicai
94. KiManiak

You know, I haven't read those Malazan books yet, but I hear good things & I have a friend who keeps nagging me to get to them. I have 'em in my short pile; I think I'll bump it up a few slots based on your observations.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
98. tnh
Mordicai @32, I keep trying to write you a comment on the African art quotes in that first illustration, but I keep being overtaken by events.

Here's the nutshell version: the term for the distinctive shape of her shield is "axumite". It turns up on early Ethiopian remains like the stelae at Aksum, is all over the rock churches at Laibela, and is echoed and quoted in the ruins at Gondor. Her sword for certain and possibly her bow reference Benin bronzes. Other details may do so as well, but Benin's art is a spectacular and complex area of study, and I don't know nearly enough about it. I also take it on faith that if I recognize a couple of Wayne Reynolds' sources from an area of art history in which I have no broad expertise, there are doubtless others I'm not seeing.
Mordicai Knode
99. mordicai
98. tnh

Man, I sure do like it when we can apply anthropology & art history to artwork. Which I guess goes to uphold my central thesis. The characters depicted in the core products matter.
treebee72 _
100. treebee72
I find it mind boggling that only a couple of weeks after a young actress has a megaton of racist bile poured onto her because of so-called fans' reading fail, that there are people on this thread arguing that it isn't important how race and/or gender are (or aren't) portrayed in our entertainment/pop culture.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
101. tnh
Treebee, Race Clue Deficit Disorder is frequently boggling, but it's the challenge we have to work with.
treebee72 _
102. treebee72
@tnh - it's not even so much the reading fail or the defaulting Rue & Thresh to 'white' fail (though those are both BIG issues), but the negative and ugly reactions by people who couldn't handle them being black, because to them it's not 'the norm'. Having that still so fresh in my mind and then reading comments on this thread about how our entertainment constantly pushing 'white as default' or 'white male as default' is not an issue when a real person has been negatively affected by this tendency makes my brain hurt.
Mordicai Knode
103. mordicai
102. treebee72

Ugh, that-- I didn't know what you were talking about until you clarified. Yeah, that...I mean...yeah. See also, my very first comment, re: Donald Glover for Spider-Man. You can argue that a black Superman or a black Batman would be wholly different characters due to race in cultural context, but Peter Parker is a poor kid from Queens in a full face mask. He could be ANYBODY. That is kind of the POINT.
JP Chapleau
104. Cain S. Latrani
It's weird that I've never really thought about all of this bfore reading the article, much less the engaging conversation that came after. Honestly, I never really looked at the art work that much.

In my time as a D&D player, I've played a wide array of characters. A male Tiefling Paladin, for instance. A bald, female, dark skinned Halfling Monk, for another.

When envisioning my character, I've just always gone with what felt right for the character. Only now do I look back on it and wonder about it all. I guess I never really think about skin color when dealing with people, in or out of game.

Probably just me.

People are people, but yes, I agree, a broader view of people in the art, for the simple sake of the art, should be done. More real women, more real and engaging characters, just more than Middle America.

Well said, Mordicai. Do not mind those that stir unnecessary arguments or make baseless accustaions. We live in a diverse world, and play in diverse wrolds. There's no reason it can't be depicted on the page that way.

If it were, maybe I'd actually stop and look at the art more often.
Brian R
105. Mayhem
Mordicai is on the right track at 96.
Make a handful of truly iconic representatives of each class. Make each a different colour/race/geographic background. That way when you write the backstory for each, you will automatically start developing more of similar races/colours without consciously choosing to.
The writers should have a vague idea of the layout of their world - they can work in real world situations, like how people in warmer climates tend to be darker skinned than those in more northerly climes. Combine that with the fantastic speciesism idea of Terry Pratchett (black and white live happily together, and gang up on green). You can then transplant whatever cutural/racial histories you like from Earth, and Humans will be a mishmash of different colours and creeds who bond on the simple idea of being Human, and not Dwarf/Orc/ThingWithTooManyTeeth.
Why not bring in nomadic Polynesian style sailors, perpetually afloat in the tropic archipelagoes, trading with mermaids and naga.
Or oriental style empires with Korean style turtle ships warring against draconians with turtles that breathe fire.

Use knowledge to flesh out your world in subtle ways. An example - Deserts make for mostly nomads, oases, small herds of animals and lots of rules regarding water rights but few regarding borders. There will be trading villages, but few large communities unless they are on the edge. Many cities will be consumed by the sands as the winds shift water sources around. Clothing and armor needs to be lighter, more breathable and flexible. Ranged weapons predominate as most prey animals are solitary and fast. Population wise, Earth ranges from the hot deserts of Arabia and Mexico to the cold deserts of the Andes and Mongolia. Think about rain shadows, and man made deserts like the areas surrounding the Sahara.

Above all get away from the damned Medieval Europe model for a while, or just to be different, assign that role to another species like kobolds or something. Humans are versatile, USE that.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
106. tnh
A basic thing fiction does is assert causality, saying "This is how the world works." That's true even if it's fantasy or science fiction or game scenarios. It's one of the reasons we read fiction. So it's not trivial when that world is falsified by the exclusion of entire classes of people. Moreover, we all know how much it matters that we can find fiction about characters who are like us in other ways, so how can it possibly not matter that POCs get left out?
Kimani Rogers
107. KiManiak
Mordicai@97 - I would strongly encourage you to give the Malazan series a chance.

A slight word of warning: Your liking of the series may depend on how you like your fantasy.
-If you're more of a stickler for the traditional "farmboy-discovers-he's-a-prince-and-saves-the-world" type (along the mold of Belgariad, LotR and/or WoT), then this may not appeal to you so much (although I would still encourage you to give it a try).
-If you're more of a "the-world-is-full-of-shades-of-gray," or a "characters-aren't-easily-classified-as-good-or-bad" type (along the A Song of Ice and Fire mold) then this will be more in your wheelhouse .

I admit that I'm making an assumption regarding your possible likes due to my perception of RPG gamers, and if nothing else your post discusses questioning one's assumptions of what RPG gamers (or any group of people, for that matter) do/don't want and do/don't like; a reminder that even those of us who think we're relatively open-minded may need from time to time.

If you do get into Malazan, Tor.com has an excellent reread going on, shepherded by a firsttime-Malazan-series-reader/newbie (Amanda Rutter ) and a Malazan series vet (Bill Capossere) that do an excellent job.
JP Chapleau
108. Skiriki
"There are no such things as asian devas."

I find this as a pretty staggering comment.

Why not? Because "deva" is a Sanskrit word still used in today's world, for crying out loud! They missed a perfect opportunity to toss in lots and lots of cultural color put through fantasy filter!

That's the saddest part of it all: missed opportunities. Instead of tickling our imaginations to spin things even further, ad astra, people seem to want to cling into the old way of things like a marmoset scared of everything around it. What happened to stimulating our imagination? Where did it go wrong, how come it is so bad to toss in possibilities? Why is portraying human alternatives to white hue and wispy gauze in a core rulebook so bad?

When I look at Ember's picture in 3.5e, that Pathfinder warrior and other things shown here, my mind immediately begins to ask questions. What's her story? Where did she come from? What kind of culture she came from? What's the reason of being here, in this time, in this place? What kind of things I can deduce from her attire and equipment?

You know, interesting and useful questions.

I am a DM and I am a player; whenever I'm a DM, if a player can come up with interesting ideas of their own, I latch on them like a remora, because you can get cool stuff out of them and make a memorable campaign. So your PC grew up in a hidden monastery not on mountains, but the savannah. Hmmmm. What kind of survival conditions are required, how that would shape the culture... oh, you got your original inspiration from this old Ethiopian kingdom that once actually existed. How neat. Let me google and find more facts.

I have also found out that as I grow older, I've started to develop the attitude "meh, seen it already". That is, what I've seen already is vaguely pseudo-Medieval Europe (but one without Moors, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Tartars, Greeks or Roma, who might have skin color darker than pure driven snow), with Germanic/Saxon/Nordic white guys (beard optional) doing it all. Maybe some evil wicked backstabby queens too. And this is not helping to tickle my imagination at all. Yawn.

So how about this: do not see this Prismatic Art project as some kind of weird tokenism effort -- please see it as a way to tickle your imagination. Basically, it is one huge tickle-toolset created just for you, for your free use. FREE STUFF, MAN, FREE STUFF! That's just as good as free beer!

Or not-use, if you don't want to use it. No one can put a gun into your head and force you to use it in your games or books you plan to publish or for your characters. (If someone does hold a gun to your head, say you'll comply and then call the cops on that nutso when they're not doing it anymore.)

But I imagine it will see lots of use, because with that cast of artists, it can't suck.

Obligatory disclosure:
1) I am a woman
2) of a color often called white, although "pasty-white with pink bits" is more accurate
3) from lower class semi-rural background (with a moderate degree of education and three years spent in university with cultural anthropology/folklore studies before IT lured me away) with ethnically normal-privileged situation typical to my native country
4) which, by the way, does not get portrayed in pseudo-medieval settings at all, despite once being an important exporter of stuff (tar, wood for ship masts) that was needed to build those seaworthy ships, and oh, whole lot of those luxurious furs rich people wore, linen, and butter, so I can totally see a merit in when other not-represented people ask these quite valid questions
Dirk Walls
109. dirk
My friends and I sit down to game to escape this sort of stuff.

As others have said, it's a game of imagination, nobody is expected to make characters that look just like the artwork. Pretty much everybody I've gamed with made characters based on the total amalgamation of stuff in their head. A little bit of Bulwy from The 13th Warrior and a dash of Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction and a big dose of Bruce Willis from Die Hard and there you go. Seriously, who looks at just the art in the book for inspiration?

And considering how some vocal genre fans react to somebody creating a POC character or gay character that doesn't fit their exact expectations, (like that whole racefail thing from a few years ago) why would Wizards of the Coast want to expose themselves to that sort of crap?

Probably the same people that are now calling for more diversity in the art are the same folks that would be writing scathing Livejournal posts about how badly WotC portrayed their new culturally diverse characters in DnD 5E and how this new culturally diverse world background they created is actually racist as all get out because blah blah blah.

DnD and other roleplaying games are sort of like the concentrated juice that comes out of the juicer. If you want to change it's flavor, change the bulk culture that gets shoved into the hopper.
Mordicai Knode
110. mordicai
107. KiManiak

Yeah, I'm actually more a "the world is full of confusing shades of grey & also time travel & also he is a robot & also I've been lying all along" a la Gene Wolfe, so I might enjoy it.
Mordicai Knode
111. mordicai
109. dirk

I'm at a loss; isn't the whole point of my post that I want the juicer to stop squeezing...all white fruit?
john mullen
112. johntheirishmongol
Having run a game for a dozen years, I never cared about the color of the characters, or monsters. I have a random chart for creating characters which includes skin color, eyes, scars, tattoos and sex and use that when I want to create a character of my own, or even if one of my players wants some help with theirs. My game usually had a 50/50 mix of gender, and ages from 50 to 15.

I think if you want to talk about diversity in gaming, let's talk about getting more players of color. I live in Sanford, FL which is now pretty famous for racial issues and I still don't know but a couple of gamers who are black. I wish there were more.
JP Chapleau
113. CaitieCat
I would like to gently point out to what are likely fellow white people: saying you're colourblind doesn't make you not-racist.

Saying you're colourblind means you have the privilege, as a white person, to be able to say, "I don't feel like dealing with race today". POC don't get that privilege.

This, and the Prismatic project, are excellent ideas, and I look forward to supporting them with my money. More cultures, more people to be, more fun to play. Win-frakkin'-win.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
114. maestro23
To echo mordicai @111, what the heck is D&D if not "the bulk culture that gets shoved into the hopper"?

Gaming doesn't happen in a bubble; it's part of the same cultural soup as Huckleberry Finn and The Hunger Games and Trayvon Martin. Just because it's niche doesn't mean it doesn't generate feedback, nor that that feedback is unimportant, even on the scale it occurs on.

We none of us have the luxury of escapism that leaves these issues entirely behind, because we're part of communities that include people who are affected by the feedback our art creates. We live today in a multi-culture, and this is true whether the idea of "multiculturalism" makes you happy or gives you headaches.

And the lesson of the racefail thrashes, painful as they may have been, was most certainly not "oh well, you can't win, no point in trying." It was that people who raise these issues deserve the dignity of being listened to. Listen to the female and POC gamers just in this conversation who are going "We'd like to feel like we're a little more welcome and represented in this community, please." And if you think there's no getting it right ever, listen to the praise that's being given the Pathfinder paladin illo up top, and why it's so well thought-of, and what it accomplishes. (And I'm sure you could find people who don't think much of it. Nothing makes everyone happy. POC are not a monolith. Film at eleven.)

And - to put this as gently as I can - if the idea of having to put up with the representations and voices of minority people in your entertainment is bothersome to you, it's worth taking a good hard look at what's causing the reaction that makes you want to run away from all that. If it's just a game and not that big a deal, it's not that big a deal to have it be inclusive, either. And if that turns out to be a big deal after all - well, then, all the protestations of "But I just don't notice or care that much what people look like!" start to ring a little hollow, don't they?
Christopher Johnstone
115. CPJ
If I recall right, Mirage and Visions were explicitly lauched for Magic in order to increase the diversity of persons figuring on Magic cards.

I've never fully understood why Wizards seems determined to not ever ever ever turn their Magic settings into Setting books for D&D (it seems such an obvious thing to do: they have a setting all worked out and the cards mean that there are tons of gorgeous illustrations just sitting around...), but anyway, given the setting of Jamuraa is well established and owned by Wizards, it seems a pretty good potential choice as one of the core or default settings.

There could be issues I'm unaware of. On the surface of things it would seem to be a logcial thing to do.

Anyway, just my two cents. I reserve the right to be totally wrong for some reason or another.

Chris
JP Chapleau
116. Aydee
I don't get it. Really? I mean really?

I can honestly say I have no idea how many illustrations are in the books. I think the only illustrations I find useful are the size comparison chart and the weapon/armour images. Everything else goes into the 'meh' filter.

Should we just scrap those images altogether?

I'd rather that they spent QA time getting the rules/gameplay right rather than wondering whether enough black/asian/caucasian/hispanic/whatever are represented etc.

Heaven forbid if we put skin colour 'blah' as a rogue.. OMG DEMONIZATION!

Reading too much into something that truly is just a bunch of pigments. Get a packet of crayola crayons and colour it in yourself if it bugs you that much.
Mordicai Knode
118. mordicai
112. johntheirishmongol

I dunno; if you have a random chart for determining skin color I would probably say you care about it at least a little...you made a random chart for it? & I agree-- getting actual diversity in gaming people is a great idea. Maybe a more inclusive portrayal of characters in core products would provide a good entry for that? That is really kind of what I'm suggesting here.
Mordicai Knode
119. mordicai
114. maestro23

I'm pretty sure now you are supposed to take a victory lap around the bases? I am not much of a sports guy-- I know, shocking right?-- but as I understand it when you hit a home run that is standard proceedure. The ammount of vitriol towards the idea of diversity coupled with "because...who cares what the people look like!" is really cognitively dissonant.
Mordicai Knode
120. mordicai
115. CPJ

I've never been a Magic: the Gathering player but I picked up A Planeswalker's Guide to Alara when it came out & ever since then I've been hooked on the worldbuilding that goes on behind the scenes. I was sad to see the "Savor the Flavor" article retire on the WotC website! Anyhow, comments I've seen around the website suggest that Hasbro is not keen on muddling brand identities? Though I always said; if bringing M:tG into continuity is the price of getting Planescape relaunched, I'm for it!
Mordicai Knode
121. mordicai
116. Aydee

As per 114. maestro23's comment, if you think it is so "meh," what is the problem? I mean, if you are indifferent, & some people actually care, why protest? To you they may just be crayola colors on a page, but the choice of colors sends a message to gamers & potential gamers; to customers & potential customers. I'd rather that message was "hey, this game is for everybody!" is all.
Brian R
123. Mayhem
I have to say I do have a number of problems with the image at the top of the page.
Her head is offset, her right arm doesn't seem to attach to her right shoulder, and those wings on her boots are going to make her trip up before she's taken two steps. Also, it looks like she has hooves.
And I don't see how the bow is accessible without stripping half her armour off. And what is the handle through the belt on her right for - it vanishes under her arm.

Facial wise? Brilliant. Good determined expression. Hair braided out of the way so as to not interfere with helmet. Colour matches racial type, and proportions are good. Why is this a problem?

Most D&D campaigns I played were based in whatever book series we were reading at the time - I have fond memories of campaigns in Midkemia and Kelewan after the Riftwar books came out, and Betrayal at Krondor only magnified it. He has dwarves in the mountains, dark elves in the cold northlands, and more relevantly the mighty dark-skinned empire of Kesh to the south. Kelewan was heavily Asian influenced - most people are yellow skinned except for the Hadati hillmen, who are ruddy skinned barbarians based off the Picti.

Why is it so hard for mainstream D&D to expand their repertoire to take in additional cultures?
JP Chapleau
125. Shlepzig
First point: I hate to break it to you, but the entire fantasy (and SF) genre is all made up. It has no obligation to conform any sort of guidelines for political correctness. I have no obligation to imagine a character being a particular race. I could just as easily imagine Conan as being black as I do white.

Second point: There are cultural reasons why the depiction of the fantasy genre has been overwhelmingly caucasian in the past. Largely the source material is overlaid against a backdrop of a fantastical Europe based on literature (and folk tales) of the same (le Mort D'Arthur, Beowulf, Grimm's Fairy Tales). Following this the depictions followed a sort of idealized European cast (blonde barbarians at the gates and all). In the last 20-30 years you have seen the pallete of the genres expand as authors are less tied to the source material and seek the new and exotic in other ways. For the most part the authors of the source material so much of the genre is drawn on have been white men, naturally the authors tend towards self-identification with their characters, culture and surroundings. This has also been changing and people from more and more diverse backgrounds have been entering the industry, which improves the genre for the better.

Last point: Unless the narrative depends upon specific cultural signifigance, race has nothing to do with plot development or storytelling. Forcing it upon a medium that also embraces elves, unicorns and dragons is absurd and degrades the storytelling. In fantasy role-playing I am imagining the character as some aspect of myself. Whatever my race is and how I identify with that is going to be an influence that is unique to myself and how I fit race in with my identity.

I don't think any case is improved by reducing race to a mere set piece in the story. If I am drafting a story and think "I have too many white folks here, I should throw in a couple browns, reds, yellows, and greens just to even it out." Not only have I thrown in a lot of fluff that is not important to the narrative, I have also diminished race to a mere label and minimized its cultural significance. I would prefer to have my readers fill in these blanks themselves.
JP Chapleau
126. Rhinegold Smith
Why don't your drop the white man's burden pose and stop attacking people trying to make a living? If your really that dedicated, go fight racism where it counts, like doing something against the recent rash of efforts to prevent people of color from voting. This is just so much posing and debating about angels on a pinhead.

Diversity, shi-mersity. Irish people were horribly discriminated against in the early days of this country, yet where are the weeping bleeding hearts demanding more inclusion of green eyed red haired people in D&D?
Mordicai Knode
127. mordicai
125. Shlepzig

Woah woah woah let me stop you right there-- you know Conan's not white, right? I mean, lets start with that. & again, I'm going to invoke maestro23's 114 comment-- if it is so easy to imagine it one way or another, why are your hackles up? I mean, you are right, it IS all made-up, so why shouldn't it be made-up to include real life diversity? I mean-- falling back on "well, before there were deep racial issues so we had white people with blonde hair as stand-ins fighting against non-white people!" Well, YEAH, that is sort of the whole problem. You talk about how your race & identity are complex personal issues...well, yes? Everyone's is. Which is the whole point. Please portray that complexity in the art direction.

Here is the thing-- you say you want people to be able to fill in the blanks? But there AREN'T blanks. There are illustraions. That are overwhelmingly white. & that IS NOT the default. & we shouldn't continue to pretend that it is.
Mordicai Knode
128. mordicai
126. Rhinegold Smith

Ah, the old "but if there are starving children in Africa, then why should we bother to do anything about the other injustices in the world!" argument. I don't buy it; I don't buy that it is a zero sum game & I don't buy that they aren't part of the same parcel, the same pattern of post-colonial dehumanization. Now I'm sort of getting farther afield, but the whole "X? Well what about the horrible thing Z?" argument is a non-starter.

As for the complexities of the Irish struggle, I'll point to the "earliest days of our country" bit. Irish discrimination still exists-- the "drunken Paddy" thing is still kicking around, & I guess in the UK discrimination against "gingers" is a real thing-- but I mean, I can be opposed to that too? Here is a fun challenge for you-- seriously, I want to know, I'm not being snide-- go through the 4e PHB & count up the number of redheads. Is it more than four? I'm honestly curious.
Dirk Walls
129. dirk
111. mordicai
I'm at a loss; isn't the whole point of my post that I want the juicer to stop squeezing...all white fruit?

No. Changing the color of the fruit would be changing the movie and tv industry that has a history of portraying non-white characters as bad guys. As others have said, role playing games usually echo other narratives we've been exposed to. If those narratives always have white dudes as the heroes ...
JP Chapleau
130. Shlepzig
127. mordicai

My hackles are not exactly up, but I find it disengenuous to strive for an artificial ideal of diversity that the fantasy (or any fictional) genre should follow. The genres are becoming more diverse and the field much more vibrant than it was 30 years ago. I think you are chasing after a chimera to force a racial diversity in a fantasy setting that reflects that in the world at large, especially when you have to apply it to elves, dwarves, gnomes and whatever other things are out there. That argument reduces race and ethnicity to something no deeper than skin color.

I prefer to think that the change is happening to the entire business organically and that we should let it continue to happen without trying to force it. This is where editors can be (and are) making a difference, showcasing work from the artists and authors that are coming their way from a much wider array of cultural backgrounds. I think the discussion is deeper (like the GL frames) than applying cultural set-pieces and skin color to illustrations like some sort of paper doll set
(as in the other illustrations above).

PS: Conan was neither white nor black he was Cerulean, the Cerulean Cimmerian.
Mordicai Knode
131. mordicai
129. dirk

So what...what is your argument? That culture trickles down? Sure, but it also has a feedback loop-- it trickles up, down, sideways, all over the place. Heck, I watch television & movies all the time where I can tell that RPGs were an influence. I care about gaming; so lets make a stand here. We can say "we need diversity & complex portrayals in gaming illustraion" as well as "we need diversity & complex portrayals in movies & television." One doesn't preclude the other. In fact one demands the other, implictly.
Tracy Hurley
132. SarahDarkmagic
130. Shlepzig

Having spoken to a number of editors, art directors, etc, I can tell you they need people Mordicai to write posts like this. At the end of the day, they need to justify their choices in the art. If the default assumption is that everyone is happy with the current state of the art, it will be harder for them to take risks and try new things. That means nothing will change. This post, this conversation, and others like it are an important part of the community and the process.
Mordicai Knode
133. mordicai
130. Shlepzig

Why is it...artificial? It is portraying overwhelmingly white people that is artificial-- that doesn't reflect the organic soup of real life in any way. I'm calling for people to be mindful of that fact. The idea that white men are the default is the wrong & artificial proposition, but there are lots of signals blaring that song. I'm saying-- that is wrong. The fact that fiction is becoming more diverse isn't accidental. It is accompanied by people who argue that hey, why bother getting diverse? See also, this entire thread. It isn't something that happens in a vaccuum, & it isn't something that you just say "well, it seems like we've had enough equality, now, lets knock it off."

As to the argument about dwarves & elves...well, listen, here is a real problem; elves & dwarves exist both as themselves & as literary metaphors. Or hey, lets especially consider orcs. Or the X-men, they are a nice neutral subject. The X-men are superpeople with superpowers...but they also represent a fundamental civil rights struggle. That isn't something you can ignore. Or well-- hey, listen. Faerun did some interesting things with their elves, giving them a range of their own non-human ethnicities. If you want to have dwarves that don't come in pale beige to dark brown, but instead go from gunmetal blue to pit iron black, that is fine with me...but it is a fundamentally different argument. Because the "default" elf is pretty fundamentally a super Aryan ideal (not to Godwin here, I'm just saying).

We ARE the industry: fans, authors, editors, artists, art directors. What is more organic than deciding to do it ourselves? I'm not arguing for some straw man version of my argument. I'm arguing for...diversity. That isn't cookie cutter. That is the opposite of paper dolls.

PS: I'd watch a blue Conan kick ass. Isn't that basically The Maxx? In all honesty, I think Conan would be best portrayed by a Pacific Islander or a Native American; Jason Momoa was good casting.
Brian R
134. Mayhem
@130
There is a difference between forcing artificial diversity, and fostering a wider gamut of options to start with.

Take World of Warcraft as an example, which most gamers new to D&D today would be at least aware of. It started with classic Green skinned Orcs and Trolls fighting European Humans and Light Elves.
Now it has races within each species, many of which players can choose to identify with -
You get green/blue Jungle Trolls, greyish Ice Trolls, brown Sand Trolls, Green/Brown/Red orcs according to corruption, the cowlike Tauren range from Limousin through Holstein to Aberdeen Angus.
Humans by default range from white to black through brown and yellow, even dwarves can be white/black/blue
And that doesn't even go into cultural differences, merely palette swaps.
It means you can easily set up conflicts between races within each species, as well as between species. It makes for an easily expanded world - your reclusive race here can be balanced by an aggressively expansionistic one on the other part of the world that the first fled from in times long gone. It is such an easy thing to incorporate in supplementary materials that it strikes me as an absurd argument that the developers rule out putting in anything other than White on the grounds that people can't identify with them.

One thing though, I do get the definite impression from the thread that many in the US have a great difficulty in general with relating to cultures that aren't Former Black Slave / Noble Red Indian / Hispanic while being perfectly comfortable with Tolkein style Man/Orc/Elf/Dwarf
Methinks a bit more exposure to Eurasia wouldn't go astray - there were great empires in Mali, Axum, the Hindu Kush, and all through India and South East Asia, let alone the Pacific and Central America. All have useful cultural and ethnic traits that would reward incorporation into a fantasy setting, if not always into the human cultures.
JP Chapleau
135. Shlepzig
132. SarahDarkmagic

Perhaps I lost my point trying to prune down the post. Perhaps I should create the PowerPoint version.

1. Diversity (racial cultural etc) is good and important. The industry is getting more diverse every year. (Diversity -up arrow-)

2. Race and Culture should be approached within a context not within a vacuum. (importance of race and culture -up arrow- within the Fantasy industry)

3. The diversity we are seeing now is a development of the natural growth of the fantasy reaching and inspiring people outside of the traditional "white male" demographic. (Michael Moorcock, Robert E Howard -> Octavia Butler, Cherie Priest).

4. Enforcing a diversity through a blind application of "racial filters" appears to be pandering rather than progress. (Racial Quota -sadface- Racial Diveristy -happyface-)

Anecdote:
It's been a long time since I was in the illustration biz' (30 years) but I never found SF and Fantasy editors to be a group hard pressed to try new things. If it looked really cool, they would publish it. They just didn't get a lot of racially diverse submissions (I will admit I didn't submit much myself though not by design. My models were white, in my drawings they ended up looking white). I see very successful racially diverse portrayals within the genres as they come from a more diverse group of creators. This is what I see as key.

Perhaps now that the geeks are out and proud and real money is being made, that has changed and corporate marketeering has taken over to drive everything into the middle and there is an active force drving this homogenous view. What I see on the bookshelf disagrees with that conclusion.
Tracy Hurley
136. SarahDarkmagic
135. Shlepzig

Depends on what is on your bookshelf. Many fantasy RPG games, as pointed out in the original post, still lack a diversity of skin tone and gender. Perhaps you're really picky and your shelf is full only of those who buck that trend.

I'm not sure where you're getting racial quotas from, like seriously not. Pointing out a lack of diversity isn't the same as instituting a quota system and looking at actual numbers is the only way to ensure our biases aren't at play.

Diversity in the artist pool is important; it's part of the reason I'm doing the project. Currently, much of the industry is still about who you know and that leads to people from certain backgrounds having an easier time getting in than those from others. In addition, I often hear from smaller publishers, I'm talking about the small 1 or 2 person shops who create a lot of the content on sites like RPGNow, that they don't know how to find artists from different backgrounds who are talented and professionals. Getting the directory together is part of this project as well.

Also, as far as I can tell, both Mordicai and myself are working from within the context. You seem to be assuming that we are not but I may be mistaken.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
137. tnh
Mayhem @123: I suppose it's a tipoff that I once worked in comics when I say that for me, the illustration registered as "reasonably practical and realistic" because her back is straight, she has a load-bearing spine and continuous spinal cord, all of her muscles have plausible attachment points, her clothing and armor cover her skin, and there are no high heels on those boots.

Shlepzig @125:
First point: ... the entire fantasy (and SF) genre is all made up.
"Fictional" does not mean "arbitrary." Fiction, including fantasy fiction, works because it asserts causality in some satisfactory fashion. That's why worldbuilding matters.
It has no obligation to conform any sort of guidelines for political correctness.
Indeed not. Its obligation is to be good fiction. The article and the ensuing thread have been pointing out that it's flawed, not as good as it could be, on account of its lack of racial diversity.
I have no obligation to imagine a character being a particular race.
True. You're a reader. You can in theory impose any reading you want on the text. In practice, this is affected to a greater or lesser degree by what's actually in the text.
I could just as easily imagine Conan as being black as I do white.
Other readers have been reporting that their own readings are more constrained than that by the source material. But if you're gifted with the ability to read it either way, why do you object to a change that won't matter to you, but will matter a great deal to others?
Second point: There are cultural reasons why the depiction of the fantasy genre has been overwhelmingly caucasian in the past.
True; but so far we've mostly avoided getting into the question of blame. Let's keep it that way.
Largely the source material is overlaid against a backdrop of a fantastical Europe based on literature (and folk tales) of the same (le Mort D'Arthur, Beowulf, Grimm's Fairy Tales).
Ahem. There are no Eladrim, Tieflings, Genasi, Devas, Half-Elves, or Dragonborn in those literary sources. No character tables, monster manuals, +1, +2, +3 ratings on magical devices, or promiscuous clutter of named potions and spells. Fights aren't rated in hit points. "Thief" is not recognized as a legitimate occupation. Characters seldom level up, and the ones that do take a long time about it. Conversely, D&D is short on feudal loyalty, recitations of genealogy, real presence in the eucharist, and magical expressions of dysfunctional family relationships.

From the beginning, D&D has freely plundered, adapted, reworked, and augmented its sources. It's a bit late now to be singling out whiteness as a characteristic that must be preserved unchanged. Whiteness not an inherited default. It's been a choice all along, and a badly flawed one.
Following this the depictions followed a sort of idealized European cast (blonde barbarians at the gates and all).
Do you perceive any problem in referring to that as "idealized"?
In the last 20-30 years you have seen the pallete of the genres expand as authors are less tied to the source material and seek the new and exotic in other ways. For the most part the authors of the source material so much of the genre is drawn on have been white men, naturally the authors tend towards self-identification with their characters, culture and surroundings.
Pick one. The presence of racial diversity either matters, or it doesn't. You've been arguing, contra the experiences described by so many other commenters, that it doesn't matter. But if that's so, why should it be "natural" for white authors to write all-white characters?

I'm going to hammer on this point: white is not a default. It's not just the way the universe works. White is a choice, and has been all along. I mean, come on -- if it were just a matter of authors creating characters like themselves, most of the stock D&D characters wouldn't be trim, active, athletically gifted outdoorsy types. Writers and scenarists have chosen to exclude the darker human genotypes. It was a bad choice. It can be a different one.
This has also been changing and people from more and more diverse backgrounds have been entering the industry, which improves the genre for the better.
Good. Let's improve it even more.
Last point: Unless the narrative depends upon specific cultural signifigance, race has nothing to do with plot development or storytelling.
That's not true. Worldbuilding matters. The other reason it can't be true is that we've seen one commenter after another talk about how much the absence or presence of racial diversity affects their reading experience. That's primary data.

Second, you've reverted to arguing that racial diversity doesn't matter. If that's true, why do you say it's "natural" for white writers to only create white characters, and why would you care either way?
Forcing it upon a medium that also embraces elves, unicorns and dragons is absurd and degrades the storytelling.
Oh, no it doesn't. What's absurd, and bad storytelling, is a narrative universe that can assimilate green-skinned elementals and dragon-skinned semi-giants, but balks at including dark-skinned humans.
In fantasy role-playing I am imagining the character as some aspect of myself.
Yes. So are dark-skinned players. If it matters to you, it matters to them.
Whatever my race is and how I identify with that is going to be an influence that is unique to myself and how I fit race in with my identity.
You can imagine yourself being a halfling or fire elemental, but you can't imagine yourself being brown?
I don't think any case is improved by reducing race to a mere set piece in the story.
If race were a "mere set piece", we wouldn't be discussing it.
If I am drafting a story and think "I have too many white folks here, I should throw in a couple browns, reds, yellows, and greens just to even it out." Not only have I thrown in a lot of fluff that is not important to the narrative,
If it's insignificant fluff, why does it bother you?
I have also diminished race to a mere label and minimized its cultural significance.
If race is so important, why is it excluded from this narrative universe?
I would prefer to have my readers fill in these blanks themselves.
But they aren't blanks. They're caucasian. That's the problem.
Mordicai Knode
138. mordicai
135. Shlepzig

I think your anecdote beautifully illustrates my point, actually. People weren't getting a lot of racially diverse submissions. People were working with existing models who were white. None of this stuff is evil racism but it is self reinforcing portrayals of a monoculture that doesn't exist. You are right to want a diverse pool of artists-- supply!-- & Sarah Darkmagic's Prismatic thing is great. I also think it is right to want a diverse art direction from the top-- demand!-- so that we work both angles.
JP Chapleau
139. Shlepzig
133. Mordicai

See the above post (135. Shlepzig): I think we agree on a lot of things.

I think the main difference is that I see the industry becoming more diverse on its own. Significant progress has been made and continues to be made. I see the "problem" of racial homogeneity as one that is disappearing already as opposed to one that must be addressed.

The "default caucasian hero" wasn't so much an enforced stereotype as something that just happened. Characters in genre fiction are becoming more complex and diverse which is something that is happening naturally. My preference is to let it continue to happen naturally. I feel that the forcing the issue by demanding racial diversity will push people towards more stereotypical or token portrayals of different races rather than ones that are complex and nuanced.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
140. tnh
Mayhem @134:
There is a difference between forcing artificial diversity, and fostering a wider gamut of options to start with.
It's the lack of diversity that's artificial -- an all-white gaming system in a mixed-race world. A choice was made to privilege white and exclude color. It's time to stop choosing that.
Mordicai Knode
141. mordicai
139. Shlepzig

I like to think that often the point of debate is to slowly circle around till you are basically arguing about the particulars of how you agree. I think it is a little disingenuous to say the default of "white male" just happened. Lets call a spade a spade: racism is real. It effects things. (Sexism too, but lets not muddy the waters). The reason we see white folks on the television is because there is a cultural narrative about the superiority of white people. I don't want to be coy about it. It is a true actual thing. I don't want to let it go unquestioned.

You are right to be wary of stereotypes; we want characters not caricatures. I don't think the embracing of diversity means grotesque Fu Manchu style distortions. I think that element of tokenism is something to be aware of-- to be wary of-- but I don't think it prevents you from gleefully searching for alternatives to a blond haired blue eyed man.

See also: Avatar the Last Airbender.
JP Chapleau
142. XaotikDesigns
That lizard lady, she came from the geographic area that lizard people come from. Most of them stay there their entire lives, never leaving except during times of war. That devil dude, he comes from the Abyss, where most of his devil dude brothers hang out, and generally, they never leave unless they are summoned.

If you want to see different races, you have to travel to their world. Want to see someone different, then travel to a different land and see them. That's the beauty of an RPG, that you can go to those different places and see the cultures, not that you can force people to change the color of their skin.

Remember, the Midieval world would have the same limitations for the non adventuring public. They wouldn't leave their land unless they are either conscripted or abducted. This means that all the white people live in white people cities, blacks live in their cities, lizard folk live in their places, and orcs in theirs.
Sky Thibedeau
143. SkylarkThibedeau
You're always taught to write what you know. Perhaps the answer is to encourage talented writers and artist from all ethnicites to create works for the Genre.

Personally I love to World Build and include Cultures different from my own Oceanic Culture in which I was reared. Still my main character will be similar to me as I am sort of a Mary Sue lite.
JP Chapleau
144. James M.
139. Shlepzig

I see it less as a demand for "race quotas" and more just -- race anything? No one is saying "gosh, if 15 percent of the illustrations in all books aren't black, and an additional 8 percent Asian, something's gone terribly wrong!"

Prismatic Art Collection, this post, people who wrote e-mails to WotC inquiring about more female and non-white minis, people who are super into Pathfinder for stuff like this-- all just want "white, male" to stop being the default. I mean, I sure don't feel like a "non-default" person. Or for non-white characters in pop culture to, I dunno, suck less. Evan Narcisse at Kotaku has written super-compellingly on the subject in video games, and I think the same arguments hold true in the realm of luddite gaming.

As far as a "preference is to let it continue to happen naturally" -- don't you suppose a large population of "non-standard" gamers piping up about how they feel the products they are expected to buy are not "for them" to be... natural? I mean, what do you suppose natural progress looks like? How would one describe the mechanics of "natural" progress?
Tracy Hurley
145. SarahDarkmagic
142. XaotikDesigns

Limiting ourselves to a (mostly Victorian) presentation of Western European medeival times is, in itself, a choice, one we don't have to make. In addition, that presentation of Europe is also a fantasy, made up by people, for their own, mostly political reasons. If you haven't seen it, I can't help but recommend Terry Jones' series on Medieval Lives.
JP Chapleau
146. Strange Magic
"This means that all the white people live in white people cities, blacks live in their cities"

I don't think that was true in real world history. There were more Africans in Europe during the Middle Ages than many people realize. While some people wouldn't have travelled far from home, others would: soldiers, traders, explorers, messengers, diplomats, etc.

There's no reason not to include a wider range of backgrounds into fantasy art and storytelling -- if that's what the creators want to do.
Sky Thibedeau
147. SkylarkThibedeau
@142
Remember, the Midieval (sic)world would have the same limitations for the non adventuring public. They wouldn't leave their land unless they are either conscripted or abducted. This means that all the white people live in white people cities, blacks live in their cities, lizard folk live in their places, and orcs in theirs.

Remember though that in medieval times there were centers of religion, trade, and political power such as Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Karakorum where people of many diverse Cultures (though mostly Middle and Upper classes) met and intermingled.
Mordicai Knode
148. mordicai
142. XaotikDesigns

Then why are there more pictures of dragonborn & tieflings in the Fourth Edition book than people with dark skin tones? & why is being black just as alien as being from Hell? I'm sorry, I reject your axioms entirely. DnD isn't based on parochial Medieval Europe. If it was it wouldn't be a polytheistic setting of magic & anachronistic technology.

Fundamentally: people who have darker skin than Caucasian are not monsters? Like, comparing them to orcs is sort of the whole problem. There is more humanoid species diversity than there is human ethnic diversity. I'm not talking about a setting; if you want to run Dark Sun with all dark skinned races okay! I'm talking about the core products.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
149. tnh
I thought the lizard folk were Merovingians.
JP Chapleau
150. Shlepzig
136. SarahDarkmagic

The bookshelf I refer to is the virtual or real bookshelf at the local bookshop. When I was cutting my teeth on the whole genre you were lucky to find a couple rows of SF and Fantasy at a mainstream bookstore and they were either the standards; LOTR, Elric, Conan and the like or works that had drawn heavily upon that source material. The Android's Dungeon where you would look for RPGs was located in a basement of a dilapidated mall in another city. Then the 80's happened and things have gotten better.

I got the point of racial quota from the statistics generated in the original article. The point that the RPG, and genre publishing industry should strive towards numbers that match whatever comparison market you are trying to penetrate. Growing up in the rural Pacific NW, they are remarkably diverse, working in NYC not even in the ballpark.

If I had a client that wanted something specific from me "African warrior princess" that's what he got. Publishers looking for diverse work need only ask for it and write a check (that doesn't bounce). I enjoyed producing such work because it pushed me harder and off to the library to do research. The truth was I wasn't asked for much work like that.

Salient to the point in (138. Mordicai) in regards to stock or incidental artwork (D&D manuals etc) editors could be making wiser choices in this regard, asking for more diverse work from the creatives. I did not originally get that as the overriding point of the article, I wholeheartedly agree with that. When it is forced it strikes me like black-face theater which I find less agreeable than the homogenous past.

135. TNH

Clearly I was too clever to be understood (or just fumbling over words) but I am not opposed to diversity. I am opposed to arbitrary diversity. Caucasian is not default, it's just what has happened in the past. It is happening less currently and I expect it will trend less and less in the future. I think this trend has made the genre much better.

I didn't state that couldn't imagine myself as being brown, doing so never served the task at hand. I have attempted at times to address issues of particular race and culture in writing and have not been satisfied with my results. I haven't stopped trying, but I haven't gotten it right yet. Imagining myself (or writing) as a elf or whatever is much easier, I don't have nearly the same cultural details or demands to deal with in doing so. Ultimately I have to draw on my experiences, I will frame an action scene differently if I had only read about how to fight, just watched a couple fights, or stepped into the ring myself.

I agree that race and culture are powerful narrative tools and should be respected for the power that they have. I am opposed to the idea of making a character a particular race just because, that is what I mean by fluff. Race is important and should be treated as something important. If it is treated as just a thing thrown in there to create a sense of diversity I feel it is being misused.

Enthncity in publishing is a choice, and I don't think there are any wrong ones. I would rather the choice be made by the author for a purpose than a marketing campaign.

138. Mordicai

I would like to say we have come to an undestanding of each other (noted above).
Sky Thibedeau
151. SkylarkThibedeau
@tnh No they are the ancestors of the Red lectroids led by
Dr. Emilio Lizardo.
James Whitehead
152. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@148mordicai, could you explain, briefly if possible as I don't want to derail the thread, what all this talk about orcs is? Just kind of confused really. All the games I played in, they were the bad guys; except in rare occassions.

As to a change in the focus of the artwork, if it helps revive d&d, I'm all for it. Just don't have much faith in WotC at the moment so let's hope these 'grass roots' kind of movements can bring 'pressure' and effect positive change; and definitely not back handed 'tokenism.'

More concerned that WotC will 'half-ass' it in the end; but that's probably just me. ;-)

A friend of mine drew the illustrations for some Magic: The Gathering cards a number of years ago that I thought were very good & different from the typical illustrations you'd find. She was not used when the next edition came out as WotC thought her artwork was 'too feminine' and wouldn't appeal to their customer base.

Turns out there was some outrage over this decision & the upshot was she was asked back to do a few more cards. It seems that her style did in fact appeal to their customer base; go figure. ;-)

The point is, if I have one, don't assume you know what your customers want. Find out & do anything possible, while ensuring the integrity of your product, to increase its appeal. D&D is a game of imagination & the images associated with it spur that imagination.

Kato
Tracy Hurley
153. SarahDarkmagic
150. Shlepzig


Publishers looking for diverse work need only ask for it and write a check (that doesn't bounce).

I've talked to a number of publishers (and designers who submit art orders) and this is not necessarily true. It's awesome that you provide that sort of service, but I hear a lot of frustration about not getting diverse artwork, unless specifically asked for and then sometimes only if they push the issue by rejecting artwork until it matches the vision.
JP Chapleau
154. Shlepzig
144. JamesM
As far as a "preference is to let it continue to happen naturally" -- don't you suppose a large population of "non-standard" gamers piping up about how they feel the products they are expected to buy are not "for them" to be... natural? I mean, what do you suppose natural progress looks like? How would one describe the mechanics of "natural" progress?
The mechanics I see, is that they take up the reigns and say "I love this stuff, but I feel that it could be better so that it speaks to me and those like me" and begin pursuing that "better".

I think that has been happening.

141. Modicai

I ascribe it less to racism than to circumstance than you do. Not that racism doesn't exist, I see the problem limited to works produced by specific individuals with racist inclinations (there are some real creeps in the industry). I just don't see it as institutionalized in this field.

I agree that the whitewashing of Avatar-TLAB (TMP) was pretty reprehensible. Race was integral to that narrative and it was diminshed by their decision to downplay it.
James Whitehead
156. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@153SarahDarkmagic, not to be rude but that sounds like a bit of a cop out to me on the part of the publishers. I would think that when you commission an artist for some 'swords & sorcery' art work you'd have some kind of meeting to discuss your company's vision (i.e., what you want to see).

I would think this meeting is where you'd hash out your ideas with phrases such as 'fresh outlook,' 'Asian/Arabic themed,' 'how about female fighters with realistic armour?' No direction on the publisher's part will simply ensure you get what said artist usually draws.

Now if the publishers do initiate these kind of meetings & still get the same old swords & sorcery art, then they need to push back or look for alternatives. Sorry if this seems a little simplistic, I'm just an accountant, not an artist. ;-)

Kato
Tracy Hurley
157. SarahDarkmagic
156. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard

I was surprised when I heard it too. Yet, I know from experience as a game freelancer that it happens. The way the publishing works, they often don't have time to keep going back and forth to get the art exactly the way they want. Since there is so little of the art we're discussing here, it's also difficult to figure out which artists are willing to produce it. A nice benefit of raising this issue is 1) to show its importance and 2) to highlight artists that are creating that art now so hopefully they get more work.
JP Chapleau
158. Shlepzig
153. SarahDarkmagic

Thank you for the kudos, but I have been out of the business for a long time now. I am old (in a relative sense) now and find myself uttering things that old people say like "back in my day..."

The marketplace has changed. Firstly to find freelance work we had to relentlessly work cons and connections, respond to open calls for submissions in obscure industry publications. I was accustomed to submitting many iterations of work for publishers to get what they wanted (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). The process took weeks as things were sent back and forth in the post (snail mail).

I would have thought that the information age would have improved the level of communication from publisher to provider (and provided both with an amazing marketplace for connections). I would have also thought the ubiquitous use of computer illustration tools would have simplified collaboration.

I am surprised to hear otherwise. I thank you for your view from the front lines. I will be looking up your project site and bookmarking it. I have two daughters with interest in the industry and should get myself more acquainted with the current state of the art.
Mordicai Knode
159. mordicai
152. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard

Notably: that having a bunch of white people-- be they human, elves, dwarves, whatever-- breaking into the caves of the dark "savage orcs" to kill them for the greater good is...a dangerous recapitulation of the white colonial propaganda that white people were "people" & that non-white indigenous people were savage subhumans. There is a lot of really distressing racial parallels in a lot of portrayals of "demi-humans."
Mordicai Knode
160. mordicai
154. Shlepzig

I think circumstance can be motivated by racial bias. No, scratch that, I think circumstance IS motivated by racial bias. It is too easy to look only at the really outrageous events & to gloss over the small stuff. The little things are the things that demand examination; like in your anecdoate, it wasn't "racism" that was driving the white washing, but rather a subtle bias built on unquestioned assumptions & context.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
161. tnh
Lochmonster, could you say that again, but in less inflammatory language?
Mordicai Knode
162. mordicai
155. Lochmonster

I am specifically trying to avoid being a smug white guy; I'm sorry you don't find my arguments compelling. It seems like you agree with the fact that non-white people (& women are under-represented) yeah? & that it is a valid issue? I'm not sure if we're disagreeing, then, because that is what I'm saying. I admitted my biases upfront in an attempt to "unpack my backpack," since I know that as a white person I am in danger of some "white burden" territory.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
163. tnh
Mordicai @160, that's my experience of how bias happens. There are occasional outrageous events, but most prejudice works like a program running quietly in the background.

What you're doing here is part of how things naturally change.
James Whitehead
164. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@157SarahDarkmagic, thanks for the info. Kinda sad really but does make sense. Under the gun to meet some deadline & you go with the safe or reliable standards. Leaves little room for creativitity I guess. I hope this project does what intends to.

I know looking on the web for appropriate images for my d&d characters could be a chore; trying to find 'female, eladrin, greatspear fighter' that wouldn't make my 13 year old daughter say "Ewww, daaaaddd..." was not easy.

@159mordicai, thanks for the clarification. I'm from the old school red/blue boxes days & never liked 'demi-humans.' 'Course I also ignored the gender restrictions on strength and 'race' restrictions on classes & levels so I'm hardly a purist. I adore Tolkien, however, so I am naturally biased against orcs. ;-)

Kato
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
165. tnh
Lochmonster, let me repeat something I said earlier in the thread:

To the extent that a political movement is successful, it will come to include people who are different from the ones who started it. That isn't being co-opted; it's winning.
Mordicai Knode
166. mordicai
163. tnh

J. Smooth had some wise words on this topic. It is a tricky situation, as I think this whole thread has proven-- the dialogue on race has become "Either you are Hitler OR you are not racist," which isn't helpful for dealing with the murky reality of the situation, only for dismissing the real complexities of...well, the whole shebang.
Mordicai Knode
167. mordicai
164. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard

Doesn't everyone adore Tolkien? From a young age, I've always been curious about the orcs, though. If they are in fact corrupted elves...can they be redeemed? Can there be a good orc? If a good orc dies, does his soul go the the halls of Mandos? If there can be good orcs, doesn't mean that there probably are good orcs, since there are so many? Doesn't it mean the orcs are the victims of racial pogroms? I mean...they are acting under coercion from Sauron (or Saruman or the Balrog) when we see them, making them victims as well?
JP Chapleau
168. Lochmonster
The fact of the matter is the articel doesn't go into what gaming in general and D&D specifially can do to attract a more diverse demographic. It doesn't say let's do A, B and C to attract a more diverse player field. The articel simply says that as a white man the author thinks there should be more characters of color represented. This is arogant in the same way the movie "The Help" is. It assumes that a white person is needed to usher in change and help those that are under represented or marginalized and that is an act of hubris.

Maybe I feel this way because the local gaming store I play at (Shout out to Red Cap's Corner in Philly!!) is in a major city and near a college so the gaming crowd is about 50% college hipsters and 50% black kids all playing characters of every color and gender with no issues.

There are valid, real issues with RPGs in general being a "white boys club" but your article only mentions "attractign new players" not attracting DIVERSE players or FEMALE players. It in fact skirts the issue entirely and comes across (IMHO) as a poorly thought out op-ed piece that misses the bigger issue.
The articel ISN'T about the demographics of the actual players of the game, here in the real world. The article is about drawing in rule books, which I care very little about.
Chin Bawambi
169. bawambi
One of the many reasons I still keep my middle school nickname of Chin Bawambi is to occasionally interject my viewpoints on race into the internets. It is very interesting to see people assume I am either of african or chinese decent because of just this simple old name of mine. They assume bias in my arguments when they don't know my life or background. I am one of those people who occasionally likes to use an avatar/role playing character that is not my racial/ethnic background just because I find it mind-expansive to do it so not having that option in a role-playing game just makes that game less interesting for me.

Thanks once again for keeping the peace teresa you make tor.com continue to be my oasis for rational discussion.
James Whitehead
170. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@167Mordicai, we did that as we got older honestly. The kindly orc, the eloquent bugbear, etc... That & we played monster, monster once & awhile - pretty much "monsters strike back" or Grendel inspired silliness.

From what I remember of the mythology, however, orcs, and trolls for that matter, are corruptions that have been given will/'souls' by Morgoth/Sauron. Their 'evil' comes from their creators. Could always play it that when Sauron falls, some orcs survive to 'reinvent' themselves. ;-) Hell! that's how my youngest views Order 66 from Star Wars; he wants some of the clones to rebel.

However, we always had fun when someone wanted to play a Robert Aspirin inspired Deva or the like; always got us into trouble as a group but we had fun. I guess we never looked at it beyond what we had read in the various fantasy books. We just never painted ourselves into a corner when we created a character. Or anyone else for that matter.

One of our players wanted to be a 'real Arabian Knight,' well our dm would make up a nation on the spot, if he didn't have one already half created that is, & incorporate whatever backstory the player may have come up with.

'Course we all had read lots of things, including mythical tales from around the world, and so could add things as we wanted pretty seamlessly.

Kato

PS - @166mordicai, these discussions are always hard online. Sadly, they often do degenerate into shouting matches & rants. This website, however, has done a great job of keeping discussion threads civil and, mostly, on topic.

PPS - @169bawambi, just tell them your first name is Seamus & your the last of the black Irish. ;-)

PPPS - Sorry for the temporary derailment.
JP Chapleau
171. Kenneth G
This sounds like a New Millenium rehash of the old "chicks in chainmail" debate of the 80s. Here's an idea... howabout we let the artists draw thier art for the new fantasy role-playing game, and stop trying to make Type V a platform for some "racial equality" stance?

Seriosuly, In my games - as well as most any I've ever played in in over 30+ years (oh gods, has it been that long?) - the only race-related issues that mattered was were you a dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, human, or some other race depending on the setting. The cultural ethnicity was determined by what ever game setting we devised/utilized as well as thw whim of the player... and we (meaning the OGs... Original Gamers) liked it that way!

I don't think I've ever met anyone from any ethincity that was ever offended by there not being enough properly portrayed "fill-in-the-racial-blank" charatcers in any of the rulebooks (the commentary were much more how god-awful some previous illustrations were in general), so why don't we prove, yet again, that we're a much more enlightened sub-species of humanity and leave things like that to the "real-worlders" to bandy about.

(ps. Half-Orcs Rule!)
Mordicai Knode
172. mordicai
170. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard

Oh mean I had a tiefling character in a Planescape game that made a whole career out of yelling about how a "fallen angel" meant that alignment was not fundamentally concrete even among outsiders, so yeah. Part of the joy of the game-- & about fantasy & about fiction in general-- is that it lets you take serious issues like race & ethics &...fiddle with it to learn about yourself.
Tracy Hurley
173. SarahDarkmagic
171. Kenneth G

I don't think I've ever met anyone from any ethincity that was ever offended by there not being enough properly portrayed "fill-in-the-racial-blank" charatcers in any of the rulebooks

If you read through the comments, you've met some here who are upset that their skin tone is rarely, if ever, present in the rulebooks.
Mordicai Knode
174. mordicai
171. Kenneth G

Welcome to the thread; if you read around you will be able to meet some people who are offended by the lack of diversity in the rulebooks. So, you can files that part away as "answered."
JP Chapleau
175. Noirling
I am a minority who grew up playing D&D. I just want to say thank you to the people who have brought this issue up because it needs to be addressed. I'm sorry, but only a racist would see this as some sort of threat to D&D. In a world where talking trees and rust monsters can be accepted, I don't see why a dark-skinned character would draw so much ire.
JP Chapleau
176. Shanz
I think it's probably important to point out that there is no such thing as "race" outside fantasy roleplaying. In D&D you have humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. IRL you have.... wait for it.... humans.

This silly, discredited, old idea that skin colour or diet or a couple of different holidays actually matter, has absolutely no basis whatsoever in biology, genetics, or any other kind of science.

There is no "race". Period.

There's just a whole raft of stupid ideas, and the human brain, which is (largely) an engine for making big conclusions from small data sets. E.g. "When I went to someone was rude to me, therefore people from are rude."

If you want to infest your role-playing with these stupid ideas, that is of course entirely up to you and you're perfectly entitled to do so.

However I will, politely, demur.

In D&D the gods are real and take active interest in the world. In D&D you can magically change your sex, perfectly and permanently. In D&D death isn't permanent for rich people. In D&D evil actually exists and it isn't the banal kind or the one-in-a-million serial killer kind.

There is so much, right there, to drive conflict, create story, and hold interest. And more! I've barely scraped the surface, and touched on merely the most obvious fantasy possibilities.

I honestly cannot tell you what color the elves are in the various worlds I've DMed over the 30 years I've played D&D. It never came up. I don't know the "human race" of even one of the hundreds of human characters my friends have played. It never came up. Occasionally various players would describe the societies their characters were from (or I would), but I can hold my hand over my heart and tell you that skin color simply never came up. Compared to the backstory of "raised by wolves and then an ascetic group of monks that never spoke", skin tone was simply a non-starter.

In my gaming group over the years were people who "represented" all the diversity that our planet has to offer in terms of backgrounds and skin pigmentation. "European" (whatever that means). "Asian" (whatever that means). "Latino" (whatever that means). "Islander" (whatever that means). Etc.

But our games simply never had any content that could be described as "race" in the terms that it's being used in the discussion here. Why should they have?

The playing of D&D routinely creates worlds without count, societies without number, cultures as the grains of sand on the beach.

And yet you're making an argument here, moricai, that I should somehow force into all that, or want to force into all that, some of the stupidest ideas ever to obsess the minds of humans?!

No.

Put whatever skin color you like on the characters in the source books, sure! The more the merrier! Blue. Neon orange. Silver. Scales. Feathers. Velcro. But rather than obsessing over some artificial "proportion" of white-v-black, why not advocate that the source book producers spend the time making sure the character art is really cool and interesting, rather than the "humanoid brandishing sword" we've seen so often?

Now that would be a useful campaign, and one I'd get thoroughly behind.

Let's make fantasy roleplaying fantastic! More China Meiville and less Tolkien!

Really, whatever floats your boat. Let's avoid one thing, though. Let's not spend even a second shoe-horning into fantasy silly real-world "fantasies" like "race".
JP Chapleau
177. Alasdair
"I flipped through an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player’s Handbook; there is an illustration so purple it could be ambiguous, but no, that book, like so much of yesteryear, is entirely Caucasian."
Unless the Caucasus exists in the setting of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which it doesn't, no it isn't. Please, if you mean 'white', say 'white'. Don't use 19th-century racist concepts like 'Caucasian'.

Apart from that, I agree, it would be a good idea for the next edition of D&D to feature more nonwhite faces.
Mordicai Knode
179. mordicai
176. Shanz

While you are right from a genetics standpoint, you are wrong from an actual real world standpoint. Yes, race is a cultural construct. That doesn't mean it isn't real. The United States of America is a cultural construct, & it put people on the Moon. You are right to acknowledge that there is no substantial variation between ethnicities-- some skin melanin & some minor statistical skeletal variations is all-- but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. A quick check up on patterns of poverty & incarceration for instance, might point to seem deeper underlying racial tensions in America. Pretending that race doesn't affect people doesn't help it go away. The only way to acknowledge it is to deal with it.

While we are exchanging anecdotes, every gaming group I've ever gamed with has started with "why don't you go around the table & describe your characters?" Is that not fairly universal?
JP Chapleau
180. Todd who is Lockwood
Lord knows I -tried- to create racial diversity in 3rd Edition. We had Asian characters too. Regdar was originally supposed to be "pan-ethnic," meaning that he could pass for any race. But every art order, every book, each cover had its own directives, and ethnicity seemed not to be as much a concern to some as it was to me. Oh well. I tried, so no apology from me.

And pardon the dumb user-name; apparently my name is already in use.
Theodric the Obscure
182. TXHermes
I love how your choice of illustrations subtlely suggest that people should set aside the struggle for this proposal and just play already-more-inclusive Pathfinder instead. Brilliant!
(Don't edition war, people. You know it's funny. Also, after Lockwood? Yay, I love your work, Todd!)
Tracy Hurley
183. SarahDarkmagic
180. Todd who is Lockwood

Hi, Todd! Awesome to see you here. I know that there are some awesome artists and others who have been trying to do this for a while, so thanks!
JP Chapleau
184. Kenneth G
@SarahDarkmagic, @mordicai

I do see that, and I can now say that I've now encountered some, yes.

Still doesn't change my opinion to let the artists draw the art and not influence/insist/demand they draw something a certain way just because someone dosen't feel like thier cultural/ethnic/religeous back ground has been portrayed in the correct amount or light. After all, the rulebooks are really for rules, not the pictures.

In fact, thinking of it. Depending on the setting, depictions of a specific race/gender/culture/etc might not even be logically apprpreate. After all, if the setting of the game dosen't include South-Norther Galbackistanians of the Gigglepuss-Flamenco province why would there be a need for a peice of art depcitng them, even if there might be some South-Norther Galbackistani Gigglepuss-Flamencoians playing it. Sure, it might be nice to include some art depicting them, but its not really necessary or logical.

Nah, just let the artists do what they do. If you feel this is a real concern, then contact (insert game company name here) and let them know in a polite letter with your concerns.

Or, maybe you could submit some of your own spin/take on some artwork for consideration?

But that's just my opinion. In this great country of ours, everyone's welcome to one! :)

(... and half-orcs STILL rule)
JP Chapleau
185. S.M. Stirling
Fantasy in general is set in preindustrial settings, loosely based off history.

And historically, prior to the post-Columbian mass migrations, near-as-no-matter everyone in any given area would be the same physical type. 'Diversity' was uncommon, even in very large states.

There were exceptions, but they were rare -- the mass importation of black slaves from East Africa into southern Iraq during late Abbasaid times, for instance, leading to the first recorded black slave uprising. For the most part moving a long way was too physically hard, economically unrewarding and risky (moving into different disease environments is hideously dangerous, not to mention the default xenophobia of the locals) to happen much.

Generally speaking physical type altered very gradually along clines as you went from one area to another. If you walked from Norway to Korea, you'd never come to a point where 'white' people gave way to 'Asian' people; there would just be a very, very slow change in the average distribution of features like hair color and eye shape from day to day. Ditto with walking from Norway to the Sudan, or Norway to the Ganges delta.

Hence while people in the Eurasian intercommunicating zone were aware of geographically distributed differences in physical characteristics, they really didn't pay much attention to it, arguably a much more realistic way to treat the phenomenon than ours.

If someone from really far away showed up, like Marco Polo in China or a sub-Saharan African in Europe, it was exotic but not significant. For that matter, to a Chinese Marco wouldn't look notably different from, say, a Tadjik -- again, a quite realistic appraisal.

'Race' as we understand the term is an optical illusion produced by moving people from opposite ends of the 'clines' into contact in large numbers. Race doesn't actually exist except as a social construct and it's a product of the West European expansion after 1492.

And race, like 'diversity', is temporary.

Move people from different areas into contact, and they'll interbreed; witness the decendants of Sally Hemmings. Eventually, things will even out and you'll have a uniform population again, as has happened in a lot of Latin America and is happening here.

What "race" is Keanu Reeves?

So I really don't see why D&D should have a quota system imposed on it; it's ahistorical and silly.

It would be much more 'realistic' to have campaigns in places where everyone or nearly everyone was, say very dark-skinned or had eyefolds or whatever.
JP Chapleau
186. Kenneth G
@S.M. Stirling

You sir, are full of win. :)

(PS... more Draka please... OR THE CAT GETS IT)
JP Chapleau
187. DM Sefiroth
I think more diversity in art could only be a good thing because it could be interesting, but isn't that prismatic art project the one that's become somewhat famous for its policy of excluding artists who didn't meet the racial quota? For example, no white or Jewish males. I saw someone going about asking for a picture of a non white alchemist, and I was about to mention a famous one.. and then I thought.., oh this is someones quota program.
JP Chapleau
188. seth e.
S. M. Stirling, 185 -- You pull out some official-looking historical stuff, but alas, it's in the service of an impressively compressed set of false equivalences:

So I really don't see why D&D should have a quota system imposed on it; it's ahistorical and silly.

Here are some things about that:

1. Nobody's mentioned a quota system. No need to be alarmed.

2. Of course it's "ahistorical", D&D is a fantasy. It has dragons and gods. It's set up to cherry-pick from history; the question is, why cherrypick from those parts? In any case, historically, D&D is played now, in our world, and represents us and our experiences much more closely than it does those of Charles the Bald.

3. Historically, the pre-industrial world was not as homogeneous as you claim, especially for a rootless adventuring class, who by definition tend to get around. Northmen served in Constantinople for years; Vikings sold European prisoners as slaves to Eastern markets; When Marco Polo, your own example, went to China, he served Kublai Khan along with a Persian-speaking civil service.

4. But let's suppose various regions are mostly homogenous, as you say. This conversation is specifically about representations in the art. People in this thread have suggested that it's up to players to play specific campaigns in other, non-Western settings; so why not have art about those settings? Why not, next to "Paladin," have an image of a warrior who might be from the court of Mansa Musa? What damage would it do, exactly?
JP Chapleau
189. Heron
This is going to sound wierd to some people, and it certainly isn't the best forum to discuss it, but I think we need to come up with a better word for the designation "hispanic". Hear me out; "hispanic" basically just means "Spanish" in latin. When we think of "hispanic" we aren't thinking of a Spanish complexion (Spanards look like most other Europeans) we're thinking of American Indians. Of course, "American Indian" is pretty problematic too, considering that folks descended from the natives of the American continent are not "Indians", and that "America" is the name of an Italian cartographer.

In a certain way, referring to them as "Mexican" would be better, given that the Aztec called themselves the "Mexica", but we tend to use "hispanic" or "latino" to refer to a wider group than just Central Americans. "Mestizan" might be good to emphasize the mixture of native, African, and European cultures which Central and South America represent, but that would exclude extant native populations as well as natives living in North America. The idea just occured to me while reading this article so I haven't thought too much about it; anyone else have any good ideas for a more accurate term?
Mordicai Knode
191. mordicai
180. Todd who is Lockwood

I don't think you need to apologize! That is what I meant about the flexibility in identification-- I think there was a lot of wiggle room. I think that the ease with which is was dilluted sort of highlights the underlying problem-- no great big racist conspiracy, just a chain reaction of tiny racial biases.
Mordicai Knode
192. mordicai
182. TXHermes

Hey, I'm just the messenger; I picked art that exemplified what I thought we good success stories. That is another economic argument; you put out diverse content & maybe you'll get shout outs for it. Hey, free publicity!
Amy Houser
193. amylikestodraw
Thanks for the article, Mordicai!

To throw in my two cents on the peripheral conversation, because they're arm in arm: I'm a woman, an illustrator, and a gamer.

From the female gamer's perspective: I love Pathfinder, and I'm glad that art like the first image in this article have started happening. I still get pretty disgusted with regularly seeing "cheesecake" women depicted in fantasy games and publishing. I've gone through books counting the number of female characters with exposed middriffs or "sexeh" come-hither expressions on their faces - and let me tell you, it's disheartening. I'm there to steal things and shoot dark elves in the knees with arrows, not to bat my eyelashes.

The "chainmail bikini" trope is ancient, and not even remotely amusing anymore. I DO vote with my money, and I DON'T buy those books if I can help it. I've got a mess of girlfriends who also play, and are equally exhausted with the state of female representation here.

The vast majority of art directors and publishers I know are equally sick of the race, gender and specially-abled representation. The change is happening, but it needs to happen together: Artists need to create more diversified works, marketing and art direction need to be receptive to it. Speaking as an artist, I feel like it's my responsibility to pitch in.

As far as race representation and how "historical" it may or may not be in a fantasy gaming setting, it's really less about that (I feel like the historical argument goes out the window when there's dragons and magic and such), and more about the simple reality of marketing. Seeing one's own considerations in the artwork/packaging goes a long way to picking up a customer's dollars. If I don't see myself considered, I'm less likely to care about a product. I'm confused as to why people are making arguments against inclusion, when we SHOULD want to include more diverse art, and get more people into it.

I'm speaking for myself when I feel that this article - and the Prismatic Art Collection - are doing right. I don't for a moment think that the creators of Prismatic Art are trying to swoop in and save anyone - they're just personally tired of seeing what's (not) out there, and are trying to fill a voiced, desired need. Change happens, in part, by creating dialogue. Cheers, everyone.
Mordicai Knode
194. mordicai
184. Kenneth G

Here is the break in your example:
Gigglepuss-Flamencoians are fictional.
Non-white people are real.

Anyhow, I don't really know what to tell you: I feel like this is a reasonable concern & so I'm telling people that. Isn't that what you suggest I do? I can't put any art forward myself; alas, my character portrait panels on my character sheets usually look like a third grader drew 'em. & not a talented one.

(My big half-orc character was Hoxa Four-Tusks, a half orc monk. He was super great; he took the Shaolin admonition to heart...avoid rather than check, check rather than hurt, hurt rather than maim, maim rather than kill...so he left a lot of maimed people in his wake.)
JP Chapleau
195. Shanz
179. Mordecai

Of course campaigns start with "who are you"! Then they run for years (if they're any good) and those initial descriptions fade into insignificance beside the mighty deeds done and mighty enemies slain.

But - and I stress again that this is from an ethnically extremely diverse group of dozens of players over 30 years - in literally hundreds of those descriptions, skin color just never came up.

It is literally the *least interesting thing* you could say about anyone, real or fictional.

If it is super interesting _for you_ then, well, that says _something_ about you, I'm sure, but I couldn't say what.

By all means make fantasy art more fantastically diverse (I once had a PC owl bear)! But it seems a massive stretch (to me) to go from "there are more red skins than black skins in 4e" to "there should be more/less of skin tone ". It seems such an irrelevance.
Mordicai Knode
196. mordicai
185. S.M. Stirling

I would propose that a core book is not the same as a campaign book. You make arguments for why low magic settings & low tech settings would be homogenous; that all sounds like a setting issue, an in-game issue. For that matter, I don't agree with that either; people elsewhere in the thread have provided compelling arguments for a greater understanding of the racial realities of for instance Medieval Europe-- a place where Moors & Ghengis Khan exist, where Marco Polo & the Crusades happen. Vikings got to the Americas, the Medditeranian is a puddle.

I think DnD is inherently ahistoric. The weapons are a mish-mash of period, the religion is polytheistic...& magic exists, dragons exist, alternate humanoid species exist. We're supposed to swallow multiple species living in the same habitat but not a cosmopolitan racial make-up?

188. seth e.

You make a lot of the same points that I would make; yes. & the reason I mention a diverse Nerath is because...there is already a vast human empire built into this historical background of the default 4e DnD product. Nerath! The empire that united the (light skinned) Snow Tribes, the (dark skinned) Empire of the Sea of Sand, etc, Nerath! Where the people of the Emerald Clan & the Falcon Mountains migrated to! Nearath, long gone now, but hey look now we have a plausible in-game reason for diversity!

Though again, I think there is a world of difference between a campaign setting & a core product, most importantly. I'm just saying, if you need a MacGuffin, there you go, Nerath.
Mordicai Knode
197. mordicai
195. Shanz

Gosh Shanz, what could you be hinting at? I wonder if I can read between the lines? "If you talk about race issues you must be a racist" is one of those things that people of privilige say when they are trying to wiggle out of an argument they are losing.
Mordicai Knode
198. mordicai
193. amylikestodraw

Yeah, I specifically left gender out of the discussion initially, because I wanted to focus on racial diversity, but you are absolutely right. The things are related, in that they are both positioned as being somehow antithetical to the overwhelming presentation of white men as the default. People can be really defensive when threatened-- I don't think "maybe not everybody should be white?" is a particularly controversial point of view, but here we are.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
200. tnh
Shanz, Steve Stirling: There may not be any biological basis for all those old racialist theories, but race as a social factor remains as intractably real as ever. An immediately visible physical characteristic that makes your odds of getting stopped by the police 127% higher in Los Angeles, nine times higher in NYC, and twenty-six times higher in England and Wales, must be acknowledged to exist. I've never seen a POC assert that race isn't real or doesn't matter. They know better.

Shall we go back to talking about D&D now?
JP Chapleau
203. Kenneth G
194. mordicai

That's "Galbackistani" Gigglepuss-Flamencoians, thank you very much. I'm sure you'll be hearing from thier emabassy soon aout the "not real" comment. 8D Nah, I understand. I was using them as a place holder to iluistrait my point. Last thing I want in this conversations is be accused of singling any one out.

And I do encourage people to voice thier concerns. But I was leaning more towards the companies in questions. The forums are fine and good, but the ones that really need to here it are the publishers (in the case of Type V, Hasbro)

(as with Half Orcs. I have Manfried, a half-orc Cleric of Sune (Realms). At a 14 Cha quite worthy of his goddess. His drawback, a unreasoning penchant for scented pomades)
JP Chapleau
204. Alan Smythee
Let me get this straight. You're complaining about the art for a game that's all about imagination and creating whatever it is YOU want to play?

The art for Ember or Tordek has never made me want to sit down and make that character, verbatim. That's poor imagination if you're influenced by the art. As a white male, I've played just as many dark-skinned characters as I've played white-skinned; this is largely because I'm a forever-DM, but irregardless. I have the racial background of NPCs I throw at the players reflect the region; if the region is predominantly Asian-themed, then it's an Asian-themed area. If it's full of Drow Elves, it's not full of pale sweaty Gnomes.

My half-black best friend plays white priests of the Sun and black monks from distant lands. My half-Hispanic friend plays Asian gunslingers and samurai because he can't really think of anything else. My white friend played a dark-skinned Elf for an especially long time.

You are creating a problem where there is none. This game is based around imagination. Use it.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
205. maestro23
Suggested new rule: The next poster to come in with "yebbut the Medieval Times were all white people anyway" has to submit a three-page paper on Al-Andalus. Because, FFS.

And, look, we don't (mostly) play D&D to recapture the Real Actual Middle Ages, any more than the SCA wants to recreate the time of plagues and serfdom and the Inquisition. We already want the romance without the awful bits, and indeed most of us only want a veneer of medievalism: as (IIRC) the inestimable Robin Laws once put it, "the modern world in fairytale drag." It's not history, it's the fantasy ideal of history plus elves and wizards and Umber Hulks, and the latter of which don't even make an appearance in Heimskringla so maybe we can just dispense with that line of argument as the nonsense it is.

And the point of fantasy - or one of the points, anyway - is a What If excercise, a world that could be if the Universe was full of magical wonder. In the context of that, are you really going to dig in your heels and say, "Sorry, women and POC, you weren't at Bannockburn or Agincourt so D&D can't be about you either, now shut up while we fight this Mind Flayer"? As has been stated over and over again in this thread, your imagination can accept the Owlbear and the Xorn and the Displacer Beast but not a bard or druid or elf who looks like Grant Imahara or Kal Penn or Melissa Harris-Perry? And further and more important, do you really want the real people who look like that to carry away that the most important thing about fantasy is that it's a nostalgia reserved for the already-privileged?

Because, whether it's intended or not, the effect of all the calls of "PC" and "political agenda" and "quotas" is to send the message Oh noes the girls and brown people are ruining my fun, and it lands as yetanother variation on "Keep in your place and quit trying to make me share my toys." Which is the problem with insisting that only white hoods and goose-stepping are Real True Racism, because it moves all the thousand tiny injuries that minorities have to put up with to the category of not real problems: the passed-over promotions and bad service and silencing and not having heroes that look like you. And, handily, prejudice and social justice become someone else's problem to fix.

It's not someone else's problem. It's your problem. It's our problem. Start right now making it better instead of worse.

(And mordicai, thanks for the kind words upstream. No cookies or victory laps for me, though; I have my own share of knapsacks to unpack, I assure you.)
JP Chapleau
206. S.M. Stirling
" 2. Of course it's "ahistorical", D&D is a fantasy. It has dragons and gods. It's set up to cherry-pick from history; the question is, why cherrypick from those parts?"

-- why not? It's set up to cherrypick from -certain parts- of history, and not recent ones.

"In any case, historically, D&D is played now, in our world, and represents us and our experiences much more closely than it does those of Charles the Bald."

-- and here I thought one of the good things about fiction in general, and fantasy in general, was that it involved projective empathy; putting yourself into times, places and the heads of people who were, like, DIFFERENT. And not just superficially different in the sense of wearing odd armor and having weird ears.

One thing I've always detested in SF, fantasy and similar fiction is settings where supposedly alien people are actually 21st-century Americans in fancy dress. Often the "aliens" are less alien than a Japanese, or our own great-grandparents.

(The latter being something I was trying to bring out in my novel "Conquistador".)

Why are you trying to make everything and everyone (except possibly the costuming) the -same-?

>3. Historically, the pre-industrial world was not as homogeneous as you claim, especially for a rootless adventuring class

-- yeah, it was, for the village-dwelling overwhelming majority for whom a mile was a long way and anyone from more than a day's walk away a 'foreigner'.

As for rootless adventurers, if you read my original post I pointed out that -individuals- always wandered around. You can walk from Germany to China in about a year and this was always possible.

What didn't happen usually was -significant numbers- of people doing so.

Eg., when Subotai and Batu Khan invaded Europe in the 1240's, they came from Mongolia, and had an army of around 50,000 men.

Well over half of whom were picked up along the way and only a small minority of whom (mostly leaders) were actually Yek Mongols.

That's a drop in the bucket, and that was to put it mildly a very unusual occurence, the equivalent of an invasion from Mars. The only time in the -whole of recorded history- when a State based in eastern Asia invaded Europe.

>Northmen served in Constantinople for years

-- see my point about gradual changes in the frequency of physical traits over geographical distance.

You can't tell an individual Greek from an individual Swede, though you might be able to tell 100 Greeks from 100 Swedes, and people noticed that at the time when they saw -groups- of Scandinavians.

For that matter, you can't tell an individual Greek from a Turk by appearance either. Or either from an Iranian. You get an occasional blond type as far east as what's now Pakistan, and there are plenty of swarthy Norwegians who'd be unexceptional in Sicily or Damascus.

A Swede in -China- would have been fairly conspicuous, or in, say, Jenne in the inland delta of the Niger. Both would have been extremely rare.

"so why not have art about those settings?"

-- actually, I suggested that -myself-, didn't I?

Incidentally, please avoid the confusion of culture with physical type. Eg., Syria is "non-Western", but the people there aren't non-Europoid in physical type; that's pretty much the same as it is elsewhere around the Mediterranean. Syria is a much 'whiter' country than the US, to the limited extent that the term has any objective meaning at all.

This verbal confusion leads to the use of "multi-cultural" when what people mean is "multi-racial".

Your culture is not like your skin color.

You culture is more like your -clothes-.

It's an acquired characteristic and subject to change. A baby has no nationality, culture, ethnicity or 'heritage'.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
207. tnh
Alan Smythee, if everyone's visual imagination could handle that transform, kids wouldn't crave action figures to play with.

Maestro23 @205: Not enforceable, but tempting all the same.

===

What is it about orcs: By way of sideways explanation, I recommend a legally unpublishable but oddly brilliant novel-length fanfiction called The Last Ringbearer. More anon, if anyone asks.
JP Chapleau
208. Shanz
197. Mordecai

Not "hinting" at anything. I said precisely what I meant: I don't know what it says about you that see red skinned half-demon fantasy characters and think "not black!"

I don't understand such thinking, as I've been at pains to point out, and neither do any of the ethnically diverse people I've spent 30 years in this hobby with.

Your "reading between the lines" was crude and quite hostile, and I think completely undeserved.
Tracy Hurley
209. SarahDarkmagic
208. Shanz

Not "hinting" at anything. I said precisely what I meant: I don't know what it says about you that see red skinned half-demon fantasy characters and think "not black!"

I think mordecai's point is this: It's a bit strange that we're more likely to see a fantasy creature, especially one that overall is pretty rare in the world, than a PoC. It's pretty strange that we're more likely to take a trip to the Abyss than we are to visit a land where the majority of people are not white. One is still on the Material Plane, the other requires planar travel. But it's much easier to defend the thing we love than to acknowledge some of the messed up logic it hides beneath the shiny veneer.
JP Chapleau
211. S.M. Stirling
200.tnh view all by tnh | Thursday April 12, 2012 03:27pm EDT but race as a social factor remains as intractably real as ever.

-- oh, sure. But the thing about things that exist because people believe in them is that if the belief changes, the thing does too. Usually the process is too slow to see in one's own lifetime, but sometimes not.

Eg., in 1912, one of the State supreme courts in the Deep South dismissed a case against a Sicilian woman for violating the law against interracial marriage.

Italians, as "everyone knew" weren't white people: hence she hadn't broken the law by marrying a white guy. QED.

There's a good book titled "How the Irish Became White" about the phenomenon in the 19th century; same thing happened with Italians and Jews in the 20th, and Hispanics more recently. Most Hispanics are white people -- that's what they tell the Census department.

There's a Sholom Aleichum story about a guy who goes missing from his shtetl in Czarist Russia. His wife gets questioned about it, and says he's gone to America.

"Gone to America? What's he doing there?"
"He's got a job."
"Job? What sort of a job?"
"He's got a job being Czar."
"Czar? How can a Jew be Czar?"
"In America, anything is possible."
JP Chapleau
212. S.M. Stirling
205.maestro23 view all by maestro23 | Thursday April 12, 2012 03:45pm EDT Suggested new rule: The next poster to come in with "yebbut the Medieval Times were all white people anyway" has to submit a three-page paper on Al-Andalus. Because, FFS.

-- err... have you ever been to Morocco? (I have.) Spain? (I have.) But in this age of the internet, you can look this stuff up.

'cause if you go to a village in the Rif Atlas and one in Andalusia or Extremadura, you'll note that the people, once you subtract the -culture- (clothes, language, religion, body-language) are JUST ABOUT THE SAME.

Same olive-skinned, mostly dark-haired and eyed type. Both with a small minority of depigmented individuals. There's actually more difference in average looks between the Rif and the Sousse Valley in southern Morocco than there is between the Rif and the area just across the Straits of Gibraltar.

This was true during the Caliphate of Cordoba and it's true now.

A tiny little minority of the Muslim armies that invaded Visigothic Spain were Arabs from the Levant (who aren't physically distinguishable from southern Spaniards either) and the vast majority were Berbers friom the Mahgreb, which is not 'racially' much different from Southern Europe and -never was-, not least because it's not far and people have been moving back and forth across it -since the Old Stone Age-.

Sheesh.

As the saying goes, it ain't what you don't know that'll kill you, it's what you think you know that just... ain't... so.
JP Chapleau
213. Alan Smythee
tnh:

I don't know what children you're familiar with, but most children I know have incredibly powerful imaginations. Action figures allow them to take their imagination and move to to a visual medium, and beyond that allows them to take their favorite things and play with them physically. But all because I had physical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batmans doesn't mean I wasn't creating elaborate fights and plots in my head. I've never met a child whose imagination wasn't more powerful than your average D&D players.

And even then, two children making Army men fight aren't going to see the same firefight. Two people who read the same book aren't going to imagine the same characters, or same fights, or same anything; the same for tabletop role-playing games. But that's why movies and TV are sadly more prevalent in our culture: a universal visual medium by which we process stories and characters.

S.M. Stirling:

Mad kudos for the depiction of culture vs. race
JP Chapleau
214. wealhtheow
SM Stirling, I get the idea that you're very interested in history, and that's great! But Mordecai has already answered your point about racial&cultural segregation with "I think DnD is inherently ahistoric. The weapons are a mish-mash of period, the religion is polytheistic...& magic exists, dragons exist, alternate humanoid species exist. We're supposed to swallow multiple species living in the same habitat but not a cosmopolitan racial make-up?"

Why continue giving a history lesson when history is not the issue here?
JP Chapleau
215. Alan Smythee
wealhteow:

Why is the burden of creating a cosmopolitan racial make-up on Wizards of the Coast? Isn't that, I dunno, the player's job? The Dungeonmaster specifically, but the game is meant to be played in the imagination with words told 'round the table. Describe your character as you see fit, blue, brown, or red-skinned. The art in the Player's Handbook is giving examples. It's not making your charcater for you.
JP Chapleau
216. wealhtheow
Sure, Alan Smythee, imagination is powerful. But I gotta say, the one-note art in role-playing books turned me off of a lot of them. I didn't even bother reading to see whether the game itself was as Western-centric and sexist as the art looked, because life is short.

And putting aside that question of limiting the audience of the product, expanding the limits of the art and worldbuilding in D&D would only *expand* the ideas sparked by the books. Sure, people can picture a character any way they please, or imagine a new world--but isn't it inspiring to have a broader range of cultural touchstones and human phenotypes to draw from? Why put unnecessary limits on ourselves? Why not look to other areas of inspiration for weapons, or ways of thinking about how monks or paladins practice their faith?
JP Chapleau
217. wealhtheow
@Alan Smythee at 215
"Why is the burden of creating a cosmopolitan racial make-up on Wizards of the Coast? Isn't that, I dunno, the player's job?"
Why is world-building that doesn't rely on cliches or stereotypes a "burden"? Sure, it's harder to create good stories than to lean on the boring tropes we've seen a thousand times before, but that doesn't mean it's not more fun, in the end.
JP Chapleau
219. Alan Smythee
Also, you clearly have never heard phrases that use "burden" such as "burden of proof." It's not a burden to create a technologically superior dark-skinned Dwarf society when compared to your generic European fantasy culture, that's just fun. You're just downright miscontruing.
JP Chapleau
221. Schwarherz
I apologise if someone already said this, as I chose to scroll past a lot of the troll bait. But, D&D is already inheritly diverse. Humans (and if I'm not mistaken Dwarves) are not restricted in their skin coloration and every other creature is a creation of fantasy/mythology that has a reason for whatever (usually odd) coloration they have. For example, the Elves and Fey have always been culturally depicted as a fair-skinned race through folklore and mythology. D&D Went far enough to create the Drow (admittedly generally evil) who are dark skinned. However whenever D&D says GENERALLY evil that doesnt mean IS evil. I have played plenty of good alligned Drow, Tieflings, etc over the years. Same with evil aligned Asimar. Please, keep in mind that the PHB's characters are only a guideline. It's not like they're some kind of "cannon" character. Really, D&D doesn't need more diversity. It already has it.
Irene Gallo
222. Irene
218. Alan Smythee
You can make your point but please refrain from name calling.
darjr darjr
223. darjr
I just want to say that, having parents of different races and being in a mixed marriage, I deeply appreciate the effort at promoting racial diversity.

Sure, sometimes it can seem hamhanded and awkward, even then I appreciate the effort. I'm not good enough with words to properly express how much I appreciate it.
Sky Thibedeau
224. SkylarkThibedeau
Another thing to consider about Medieval Europe is that from about 378 AD when Rome lost the battle of Adrianople til the Portuguese sank the Sultan's Fleet in Goa in 1510, the Europeans were constantly being beaten by invaders from the Mediterranean Coasts of Africa and the Steppes of Central Asia. They always did better when fighting each other.

Were it not for the Death of Ogadai Khan, Europe like East and West Asia would have fallen to the Mongols, though perhaps Britain and Ireland like Japan would have remained Autonomous
Wealhtheow Wylfing
225. Wealhtheow
@Alan Smythee at 220: "It does not say you must be ethnocentric Ye Olden Medieval French-English stereotypes coupled with Tolkien archetypes. YOU do that." Actually, I'd submit that the ~hundred people above (like Shlepzig at 125, or SM Stirling all over the place) seemingly commenting that fantasy is naturally white and Western European, and moving away from that is impossible or weird, are the people doing that. And you don't have to look hard to find people in this very comments section resisting having non-white humans in the art.

I don't think noting that most of the art used to be pretty white is racist, either. Nor is it creating racism or racist divisions to point out that there were far more white characters portrayed than non-white. But yeah, I like pretty art. (Judging from dealers' rooms, I'm not the only one who likes looking at the art, either.) And I don't just like it to be of the same 5 white dudes over and over, because that got boring a long time ago. I want women wearing clothes they can fight in, and phenotypes that aren't just the same two noses, 1 skin tone, and four hair colors over and over again.
Irene Gallo
227. Irene
Due to the sensitive nature of this topic and the fact that it requires constant moderation, we're temporarily closing comments until 10 AM tomorrow morning (EST), so that we can continue to give the thread our full attention. Thank you.
Irene Gallo
228. Irene
Morning coffee in hand, we are back and open for business. Feel free to comment.
JP Chapleau
229. seth e.
I was just posting this yesterday when comments were turned off.

S.M. Stirling @212 - yeah, it was, for the village-dwelling overwhelming majority for whom a mile was a long way and anyone from more than a day's walk away a 'foreigner'.

So, do you play roleplaying games in which the characters do nothing but go about their lives as tenant farmers for forty years? Can you describe some campaigns that take place entirely within a five-mile radius? If they do, I bet they're set in large cosmopolitan cities, Lankhmar-style.

As for the fantasy-history thing: if we're being "realistic," what effect do you suppose massive amounts of magic, flying lizards, divine interventions etc. would have on cultural and racial transmission? Historical "accuracy" is a false goal here. People don't play D&D in order to accurately represent 13th-century France, or any other snapshot of history. Mordicai began by pointing out that D&D's inherently ahistorical, and it's been repeated to you several times.

and here I thought one of the good things about fiction in general, and fantasy in general, was that it involved projective empathy; putting yourself into times, places and the heads of people who were, like, DIFFERENT.

You actually used projective empathy as a reason not to have to imagine racial diversity in a fictional setting. You really did. Congrats on the chutzpah, but that's asinine.

Incidentally, please avoid the confusion of culture with physical type.

In the first place, I didn't confuse the two in my comment, and I continue not to. So don't worry! In the second place, gosh, you sure do spend a lot of time demonstrating erudition on things that are irrelevant to the conversation. You yourself brought up this confusion in your reply, by bringing up "long periods" of racial-cultural diffusion (which, again, not necessarily relevant to adventure-based fantasy narratives), positing that mixing cultures would be physically inseparable after some centuries, and then lecturing me on the confusion you yourself had engendered.

Just to hit on one point, your claim depends on looking at a place and time, like Morocco and Andalusia (I've been there too!) only centuries after cultural intersection, at just the right place and time to support your point most efficiently. And then you yourself point out that there is a difference in phenotype between northern and southern Morocco--as there is between Andalusia and Galicia, for instance. So physical variation is indeed a phenomenon, even after all these centuries, long after the medieval models we're talking about. But that somehow fails to contradict your point, because you're only talking about the relationship between the Rif and Andalusia--place names you're clearly very proud of knowing--and not any other comparisons in the same area.

And again, what does any of this have to do with the landscape and cultural makeup of the average D&D campaign? Sheesh indeed, my windy friend.
JP Chapleau
230. Skiriki
My baffledness continues. People are really this stubborn to change, even when the change is likely to head down the path of AWESOMEFIER..?

Even more confusing, the claims "it does not matter to me!" whereas it is actually pretty obvious that it certainly does matter to them -- matters enough that there are cries of not-wishing to have this new kind of art around.

Look, I agree -- pictures in core rule books should help establish the setting and mood. People should be wearing the armor listed, wield the weapons shown on the next table, preferably while in action; monsters should look like they're described (so no skimping on Invisible Stalker, that joke is old) if they can be detected somehow, or if they're abstract ("unseen by all visual senses, because they are nothing but a reek of rotting cabbage"), their effects to the environment around them.

But... is it really that bad that you got someone who looks like East Indian (maybe she's a deva!), if she's throwing a chakram (which was called annulat in Planar Handbook for 3.5e, and went by its original name in several Forgotten Realms books) in a battle against a rakshasa (see what I did there?), while her companion in this battle is also giving the monstrous beast some solid whacks with a longsword, while wearing full plate? That would still fulfill the criteria I listed above.
How come it is somehow OK that we can take, say, monsters out of cultures of other people, and then refuse/forget/don't even bother to portray people of that culture in suitable context?

"Deva" is a Sanskrit word for deities and angelic beings (see it also in context of Buddhism); in D&D, prior to 4e, there was a host of angelic beings, from Movanic Deva to other * Devas. They were quite liberally "borrowed" from real world mythology and seamlessly welded to the game, yet people who actually told the tales, even in ancient, fantasy-filtered context don't seem to make the cut. Why? Are they somehow less cool than the creatures they created with their imagination?

I can grab core D&D Monster Manuals (from I to V, for 3.5e, plus other notable monster tomes) and list the origin sources for several creatures, here, watch me do it:

Ahuizotl: Aztec
Asura: Hindu
Couatl: Aztec (via Quetzalcoatl)
Djinn: Arabic
Domovoi: Slavic (heavily underrepresented as well, despite the importance in general European history)
Dybbuk: Jewish
Efreeti: Arabic
Gorynych: Slavic
Juggernaut: Hindu
Kenku: a variant of karasu tengu, Japanese
Lammasu: Sumerian
Marid: Arabic
Naga: Hindu
Oni, Ogre Mage: Japanese
Phoenix: Greek/Egyptian/Persian/Arabic/Chinese/Roman/Indian
Rakshasa: Hindu/Malay/Bengali/Assemese/Tibetan/Chinese/Japanese
Roc: Arabic/Persian
Rusalka: Slavic
Senmurv: believe it or not, but this is from actual mythology: Sumerian
Sirrush: Sumerian
Sphinx (many variants): Egyptian/Greek
Thunderbird: Native American (Pacific Northwest, American Southwest, Great Plains)
Vodyanoi: Slavic
Wendigo: Algonquian
Wereshark: aka Nanaue, Hawaii; similar concepts also found around Pacific Ocean
Yeti: Tibetan
Zombie: Niger-Congo, South Africa, Haiti

This is not a complete list, of course. Just a small sample of the cultural appropriation that we, as gamers, seem to be all too happy to do. And that, y'know, doesn't seem fair to me.

Also, the argument about travel distances is not applicable to D&D. This is a world where you can cast teleport, greater teleport, planar shift, greater planar shift, shadowwalk or any other spells that make traveling fast. Remember -- player characters are exceptional in D&D. It is a wonder that any of our parties remembered how to walk from Place A to Place B once we hit the level where teleport became an actual option.

On top of this, settings like Eberron have introduced the concept of mass transit in form of lightning rail trains, airships and other means; lightning rail is specifically noted to having an effect on people, on account of it being cheap enough that even a commoner can use it if one saves some coppers per month.

Eberron wasn't exactly shy about touching controversial topics via fantasy filter: pretty much every humanoid species had once saved the world from utter destruction, including orcs, hobgoblins and other traditional enemy species, and anyone can and will be of any alignment without restriction.

It touched colonialism in form of Xen'drik, brutal group-think oppression of people in Sarlona, weapons of mass destruction and devastation of an entire nation (Cyre), ethics of necromancy, creation of a slave caste shock-troopers for a war (Warforged), genocide of an entire cluster of a species (lycanthropes and shifters) and so on and so on.

Sadly, it was a bit half-baked treatment, but it was a brave attempt nonetheless.

Anyway: I'll summarize my thoughts by quoting a much smarter writer.

"Ignorant: a state of not knowing what a pronoun is, or how to find the square root of 27.4, and merely knowing childish and useless things like which of the seventy almost identical-looking species of the purple sea snake are the deadly ones, how to treat the poisonous pith of the Sago-sago tree to make a nourishing gruel, how to foretell the weather by the movements of the tree-climbing Burglar Crab, how to navigate across a thousand miles of featureless ocean by means of a piece of string and a small clay model of your grandfather, how to get essential vitamins from the liver of the ferocious Ice Bear, and other such trivial matters. It's a strange thing that when everyone becomes educated, everyone knows about the pronoun but no one knows about the Sago-sago." -- Terry Pratchett

And I totally want to know about Sago-sago. To me, material which shows me people who are not like I am is a source of ideas and inspiration.

Why the resistance? If it is all the same to you which color their skin is and what kind of facial and body structure people have, then couldn't you humor me when I approach a publisher and politely ask if they could be more inclusive? It shouldn't be anything off from your enjoyment, if you're truly colorblind to such issues. I'm not, I kinda need to live my every day life as not-default on account of being a woman, and thus I'm guessing there are similar issues to not-white people.

So odd. So very, very, very odd.
Mordicai Knode
231. mordicai
I guess what I'm saying, in regards to arguments appealing to a hypothetically homogenous Middle Ages in Europe-- which people have made strong arguments against-- is that even if I grant that axiom? DnD exists in the modern world. As a product. As a real thing, as books & minis that people can buy. Real people. Not a theoretical historical feudal Europe. A real actual world we live in. & thus Dungeons & Dragons has more in common with the real world than it does with what you imagine a particular slice of history to be. It jams up literary traditions, it jams up historical periods, it jams up speculative anthropology, fictional religions, Vancian magic, imaginary species. & then-- it is sold to real living humans. Real living humans come in types other than "white male." Is it really so controversial to suggest that the actual diversity of the real world be reflected in the generic core material?
Tracy Hurley
232. SarahDarkmagic
231. mordicai

The thing that gets me is when people use the real world to justify their beliefs about race, skin tone, gender, etc in a fantasy setting that has a completely different world conceits than our own world, in part, but not completely, based on the fact that there is magic. Most D&D worlds I've played in have pretty easy travel, at least much more akin to the 1700 and 1800s. If you have enough coin, and plenty do, it's not that hard to get a ship or caravan that goes just about anywhere. Many of the cities are cosmopolitan.

As has been said a number of times before, yes, adding a greater diversity of skin tones to the game is a choice, but so is not adding them.
JP Chapleau
233. seth e.
Mordicai @231 - Yes, exactly, and very well put.

SarahDarkmagic @323 - yes, adding a greater diversity of skin tones to the game is a choice, but so is not adding them. Exactly again.
Mordicai Knode
234. mordicai
Also, for a humorous take on many of these race issues, I personally recomend the website "Yo, Is This Racist?" A little NSFW for language, but it does a good job deflating the casual privilige lots of people carry around.
JP Chapleau
235. CavalierElrik
If it is imaginary, (which as far as I am aware, D&D is...) then everything in the D&D pantheon, from gods to planes to rules to skin color was designed to be altered, skewed, and changed for an individual and diverse gaming options as implimented by individual DM's. Hence the ridiculousness of needing a rule for everything under the sun. Skin color and the need for WOC to design to the the cultural masses is just as ridiculous. Want more blacks in your individual game? Go for it. Just because the rule book doesn't "show" it doesnt mean they cant exist. If people can't get past the fact that the game is designed to be altered for each individual campaign, then their might be other issues. Besides, if we wanted to get really picky about it, wouldn't we be arguing genetics and statistics based on racial traits, not just skin color? Perhaps we need a rule about (insert skin color here) carachters being more "x" or getting benefits for "x" or picking a certain class or path becuase typically people with the skin color "x" are better at "x" or so says the "real-world" culture. Where does the rule making and pandering stop? Its a game of imagination. It hardly needs to be directed to the WOC designers to "make sure they include a diverse array of "real-life skin colors" in the book of rules governing a completely made-up world. Let the designers design. Let the artists create art. And let the DM's create the worlds they want. They don't need the book to tell them anything more than it already does. Now, pass me that D6 so I can roll to see if my "Afro-cuban from a mixed race parental lineage of middle-eastern "real world" geographical upbringing who currently resides in a same-gender relationship" wizard has to use the bathroom more times than the Anglo-Saxon based warrior I'm fighting alongside....
Dan Layman-Kennedy
236. maestro23
It occurs to me that the theatre world had something like this thrash twenty-odd years ago, when "colorblind casting" was causing a lot of hand-wringing and brow-furrowing, and you could still find folks who were willing to more or less say that Avery Brooks should shut up and be thankful that Shakespeare wrote three whole roles for people who look like him, even if one's a villain, one's a walk-on, and one's practically the ur-text of what we mean when we say "problematic." And you'd even get the same hemming and hawing about "Well, historically..." and so on.

Eventually the dramatic world as a whole got over it, and people realized that anyone who was really seriously making those arguments was a douchebag. And also that anyone who'd actually turn up their nose at the idea of Captain Sisko's Lear was unworthy of the great tribe of Dionysos and Thespis. So the world of the arts was much improved.

Eventually, I think - I hope - the world of geekdom will be able to arrive at the same place, but we're going to have to keep having this damn conversation for a while. As one who saw how much fun it was the last time, I'm terribly sorry.

S.M. Stirling, I think I fail to understand the point you do me the honor of making, though I confess I continue to boggle at your arguments for exclusivity instead of inclusivity in the great and noble art of rolegaming, right here in front of people who are asking very nicely to be full participants in the clubhouse.

Are you saying that the citizens of Moorish Spain probably didn't look like Sub-Saharan Africans? They probably didn't, though "Moor" was a word used to describe a very wide variety of people, from relatively fair-skinned Berbers to very dark-skinned West Africans, as a not-terribly-rigorous survey of Medieval and Renaissance art will quickly attest. (Shakespeare's use of it is pretty unequivocally meant to describe someone we'd think of today as "black," and while it's true he probably never met one in the flesh - Tudor England being, yes, a relatively isolated and xenophobic culture - he didn't pull that idea out of nowhere.) But the point is that even a Berber is - by modern Western standards of what's understood as the unmarked cultural default - a "person of color." And there they were, in Europe, in the Middle Ages, living side by side with everyone else, for a very long time.

(That modern Andalusia should look pretty much like everywhere else in the region five hundred-odd years after losing a great deal of its Moorish population - and don't think I didn't see you palm that card - should not be at all surprising. So "sheesh" yourself.)

The point is not that every village in Medieval Europe was like Queens. The point is that there were times and places that were cosmopolitan, and that people who we'd think of as non-white were not utterly unknown, and that sometimes they even interacted with the native population in ways other than trying to kill each other. And that fantasy including such people is not the gross violation of historicity, if that's really important to you to maintain in a world that has gnolls and magic missiles in it, that it's being promulgated as by the "but it's based on European tradition" argument.

As for "what I think I know," what I know for absolutely certain is that you've made assertions in this thread in the Voice of Authority that are not truths universally acknowledged by the entire community of historians, even by all who are as rigorous and learned as thou'rt. So careful where you point that thing.
Tracy Hurley
237. SarahDarkmagic
235. CavalierElrik

Where does the rule making and pandering stop?

So because some people in the community who play these games would like to see themselves recognized in the artwork, that is pandering but the white male default, sometimes driven, as a number of people have said, by marketing, is not pandering? Because that is exactly the argument you are making.
Jennifer Baughman
238. JenniferBaughman
Skiriki @230: I ask myself the same questions. And the only answer I can come up with is that the objectors think that the world is a zero-sum game, in which every depiction of a person who is "non-standard" (non-white non-heterosexual non-male, etc.) somehow diminishes their standing.

Which, it occurs to me, might be the case; people who are privileged to live in a world where a majority of imagery conforms to their general appearance feel threatened by an increase in images that "aren't them". It's a sense of entitlement: that the world reflects them, that the world is comfortable for them.

This is a variant of the same argument that's been popping up all over. The uproar over same-sex relationships in Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 was similar; so was the outrage over allowing "Story Mode" for players to all-but-skip the difficult parts of combat. "Choice? We don't need no steenking choice!"

And I don't know how to explain that offering people a more diverse array of options does not diminish the choices already available. Don't want to see maleShep's romance with Lt. Cortez, or maleHawke's love of Fenris? Don't play those choices; it's honestly that simple. Don't want to see a black character in an RPG? Turn the page.

And if you're actually so offended by the thought or sight of people that don't look like you in a gamebook, or on a video screen, perhaps you could take a step back and consider -- how do those of us that have to fight, and fight, and fight for inclusion feel?
Amy Houser
239. amylikestodraw
@235. CavalierElrik

It hardly needs to be directed to the WOC designers to "make sure they include a diverse array of "real-life skin colors" in the book of rules governing a completely made-up world. Let the designers design. Let the artists create art. And let the DM's create the worlds they want.

Thanks for the consideration to the artists and designers. From my perspective (I illustrate for RPGs sometimes), I have vastly more enjoyment and growth as an artist when I take time to work out the looks, clothing, armor and weaponry of various races, of various hypothetical regions/cultures/worlds. I was stoked when I found out what Chinese mountain-scale armour was! That was an awesome drawing day. I love me some plate mail, but it's so much more fulfilling to change it up.

Point being, drawing all white people gets kinda boring. I've worked for large companies (including a company who may or may not have a monopoly on the "Princess" market, ifyouknowwhatImean) who have actually told me to make sure I use only the white people. Aside from being infuriating and saddening, this art direction is boring and old.

The art direction I'm getting from new-hotness, up and coming RPG art directors is "mix it up", and I'm grateful for that. The simple fact is that this IS a real-world product, and consumers come in all colors. It's not about using your imagination and designing a character of color - it's about appealing to consumers of every color. Why be exclusionary?

Yeah, it might be easier for me to draw white girls, since I'm a white girl, and practiced drawing white girls in my wee teen formative years of drawing. That doesn't mean it's always the better looking, more exciting, more fulfilling choice. Having others suggest that artists try something else on for size is probably the best advice an artist can get, honestly.
Mordicai Knode
240. mordicai
236. maestro23

Hrm, who is the patron muse of the roleplaying game? Calliope, I suppose.

235. CavalierElrik

I find it a little disheartening that people use the "why don't you just use your imagination!" excuse. I feel like it is dishonest. If you really meant what you said you'd be calling for books devoid of any artistic representation. Why has pictures at all? Use your imagination! Except, pictures convey information. They convey inspiration. Ever look at a cool monster & go "yeah, you, I choose YOU canon golem"? Or look at a sweet picture of a runelord or elf thief & go "wait, it would be cool to have a gem embedded in my head like Hawkmoon."

I don't know, I find an awful lot of people on this thread simultaneously claiming that the art direction is no big deal, psh, why are people freaking out just because it predominantly shows white folks...& also that the art can't change & we're all somehow ruining it by asking for diversity. You can't have it both ways, you know; either you think it is meaningless or you think it is meaningful. If it is the former, then what do you care? If it is the latter...then what?
JP Chapleau
241. SF
@235 CavalierErik:
"Hence the ridiculousness of needing a rule for everything under the sun. Skin color and the need for WOC to design to the the cultural masses is just as ridiculous. Want more blacks in your individual game? Go for it. Just because the rule book doesn't "show" it doesnt mean they cant exist."

So far, in this thread, I haven't seen anyone asking for a rule set related to skin color. They're just asking for more diversity in the artwork that accompanies the rules. They're looking to see someone who looks somewhat like themselves.

"Where does the rule making and pandering stop?"

No one's asking for rule changes. No need to invoke the slippery slope. And why call it pandering? People aren't asking for the exclusion of depictions of white (and male) characters. They're asking for the inclusion of non-white (and less sexualized female) characters alongside the already existing imagery.

"If people can't get past the fact that the game is designed to be altered for each individual campaign, then their might be other issues."

The people who are making these sort of requests are most likely already doing that. They're just asking for gaming companies to make them feel a little more welcome. Is that such a bad thing?

If the people who are making these requests, the Prismatic Art Project, the various posters, etc., were to explicitly say "We do not want game design altered, we do not want additional rule sets, we just want to see more variety and inclusivity in the art accompanying those rule sets," would you still be opposed to all this? If so, why?

@230 Skiriki: You're making a very good point with that monster list.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
242. maestro23
mordicai, I imagine that gamers could call upon Thalia, Calliope, or Clio, depending on where they fall on the G/N/S spectrum. :)

As a whole, like so many other things, I suspect the hobby is governed by Eris.
Mordicai Knode
243. mordicai
242. maestro23

I imagine "governed by Eris" is going to be one of the better oxymorons to come from this whole thing. Besides, I think it might be an Odin thing; I'm pretty sure the runes that he hung on the tree for were the numbers of a twenty sided die...
chris kenny
244. chrisblue77
Were talking about a compny thatcheeps out on its art, they would rather reprint an old image then commission a new one
JP Chapleau
245. ryamano
@62 Maria
Regarding engaging racism in the gaming and between the human races (and not between elves and orcs, for example):
Am I the only one who played Greyhawk here, using the “From the Ashes” sourcebook? The way people talk about Greyhawk it seems most gamers here only played the first modules and not anything after (or during) the Greyhawk Wars.
Greyhawk has several different human races: Suel, Oeridian, Flan, Touv, Olman, Rennee, Baklunish. The last four are non-white (I was never sure about the Flan. The description is very ambiguous, I thought of them as white celts, but some thought about them differently). Basically, Olman are MesoAmerindians (Native Americans), Touv are Sub Saharan Africans (Blacks), Rennee are Gypsies and Baklunish are Middle Easterners (some are more like Turkics, some are more like Arabs). Not only are these races present, there are issues between them. The Flan were invaded (the name of the continent, Flannaess, comes from them) and basically there is only one Flan independent nation left (the Duchy of Tehn, at least before the Greyhawk Wars, after that they become refugees). The Rennee are distrusted by everyone since they came from someplace else (in this case, a different world) and live like nomads.
And then there’s that Suel (blonde, blue eyed) nation called Scarlet Brotherhood, one of the three big bads of the Greyhawk Wars (along with the Great Kingdom and Iuz). A nation formed by Suel refugees of the ancient Suel Empire that believed in the superiority of the Suel race. The Scarlet Brotherhood in the Greyhawk Wars invades several countries (including Touv and Olman territory) and controls them, in a way much like Nazi Germany. There’s lots of similarities with Nazi Germany. For example, they approach the Barbarians of the North (who’re also Suel) and try to make an alliance with them, since they admire the purity of their race. The Barbarians are not that impressed with the Brotherhood and try as much as they can to ignore them. This is a lot like the Sweden-Germany relationship in WWII. Lots of adventures (official modules from Living Greyhawk) dealt with the invaded nations trying to regain independence and helping each other in the process, in sometimes a very multiethnic effort.
It seems like racism was and could be discussed in a lot of ways in Greyhawk, the first RPG setting (and the official RPG setting for the 3rd edition, that ran from 2000 to 2007). So I don’t think that discussions about racism were completely absent in the older non-core settings. Maybe that was the case of Mystara or Forgotten Realms*, but a setting that basically has a proxy Nazi Germany (with martial artist monks) doesn’t seem to be ignoring the racial matters completely.

* By the way, in Forgotten Realms a nation much like Spain (it's in the south of the Sea of Swords) invades the setting of Maztica, a place much like the Aztec Empire. Again, lots of racial issues were discussed in these books. But it seems most players didn’t play them.
Mordicai Knode
246. mordicai
245. ryamano

Sounds like that is another "MacGuffin solution" to my proposed cosmopolitan Nerath-- make Greyhawk the default setting & actually use the canonical ethnic breakdowns as a way of expressing real world diversity.

I've been specifically avoiding talking about the way various games handle race-- Thay & slavery, Skiriki's points about Eberron in 230, etc-- because I wanted to keep the scope narrow on art direction & core books. You are right that different parts of the game have at different times dealt with race better or worse-- it gets hard to generalize, which is a good thing! I just wanted to stay "on message" in my original post.
Matthew B
247. MatthewB
To be honest, despite reading through a lot of the detractors' comments here, I'm still at a complete loss when it comes to understanding how any reasonable person could have a problem with this suggestion. Just so we don't get stuck arguing trivia and semantics, let's cut it back to the most basic level (feel free to correct me if i'm missing something important here Mordicai):

"Game art should strive to present more variety when it comes to depictions of humans - more women and a wider range of skin tones, presented in a wider variety of roles."

I see only one argument against this that is (arguably) not based in priviledge or outright racism, and it appears to have already been shredded. "The art is already plenty diverse and adding more risks tipping it to the point where white males will be underrepresented."

You can leaf through just about any game book (and in fact, Mordicai did) and see that this is not true, so the only thing left to argue over is priviledge itself. That's a far bigger topic than can really be addressed here. If you don't care about it and don't want to look into it further then that's probably a sign of your own priviledge.

Mel Brooks said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." We all care more about things that directly affect us than about things that only affect others. Consider that the next time you think someone else is making a mountain out of a molehill.
JP Chapleau
248. ryamano
@246 mordecai

Greyhawk WAS the default setting of D&D, from the get-go (it was the first setting ever used in a RPG, since Gary Gygax used it to play with his players) and also was the default setting of D&D in the 3rd edition.

My main point in post 245 was that Maria could be depicting the people of TSR and WotC way too badly when she said game developers didn't or can't take into account racism and race issues in their products. They did, almost 20 years ago, and in mainstream lines (Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms).
JP Chapleau
249. sarah_joy
The reason there are more tieflings and dragonborns than blacks in 4th ed PHB is probably because they are new to the PHB so they're exciting, also that, frankly, we know what a black person looks like, but I'd have no idea what a tiefling looked like without the illustrations.

I'm all for more diversity in the illustrations--Latinos, Arabs, and Pacific Islanders aren't represented at all--but the lack of non-white minatures is a much bigger deal to me. My (broke) friends and I use lego figures, army men, and figurines instead of miniatures so I haven't had to deal with it, but if I spent the money to buy a model of my character I would want her to look exactly like I imagine her. Otherwise I might as well keep using a koala to represent my dragon born.

Something that struck me as odd that no one mentioned: Am I the only person who thinks the woman on the front of 4th ed PHB1 looks Indian? Jet black hair is rare outside of Asia, and between skin tone and lip shape I would call her Indian. Maybe others think she looks white, I'm not sure. But I was very happy to see two characters on the front who were not the typical "white guy with a sword".
Mordicai Knode
250. mordicai
249. sarah_joy

Yeah, but here is the thing: "non-white" isn't like...a crazy fringe thing. Dragonborn are cool...but that doesn't mean the human & elves & dwarves & halflings & half-elves can't be diverse in portrayal. & for that matter, a Dragonborn with like a Maori kind of art direction? Dang I just thought of how cool that would look. Next 4e character, done.

I know what you mean about lack of non-white minis; I should have touched on that in my article. I have a WHOLE MESS of minis-- I am not a painter so the plastic WotC minis (RIP) were a boon & these new Pathfinder ones are kicking butt. I too try to get them to "match," at least on some level, & I've had a frustrating time filling in that nice. "Xeph Warrior" you know what I'm talking about, I've used you for like...a zillion NPCs.

I think that she does look like she could be non-white, totally. & that goes back to Mister Lockwood's comments-- & art style-- of racial ambiguity. I think that has its place, but so do, you know, inarguably dark skin. But you are right; I don't think WotC is like, falling down failing; I think you're right that the cover isn't a "white guy with a sword" & it was one of the factors that kept me excited in the early days leading up to 4e. More of that, please!
JP Chapleau
251. Aaron Stack
What's wrong with letting the individual players of the game D&D make up their own minds on whether or not they would like transsexual, or whatever other kinds of characters in their games? Is freedom of choice so wrong?
Mordicai Knode
252. mordicai
251. Aaron Stack

Oh, you mean that paragraph where I wrote about how the Game Police will be making weekly spotchecks on the games played worldwide to be on the lookout for thoughtcrime? Wait a minute...I didn't say that at all! Hey! In fact I kind of said the opposite; I said I wanted broader depictions of characters in core books. The kicker is that the "individual players of the game" aren't all white men. I want the art to reflect that. To me, that sounds pretty darn modest.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
253. maestro23
Isn't it "individual players of the game" who are calling for more diversity and organizing efforts like the Prismatic Art Project?

I have no official ties to the companies myself, but I can say with near-absolute assurance that neither Wizards nor Paizo nor any other maker of games puts a tracking device in their books so they can send over an official rep when you play to make sure your world is meeting the standards of the Diversity Police. You absolutely have freedom of choice to make your campaign milieu the World Without Melanin, or Queer People, or Female Agency, or whatever other unpleasant thing your group needs to establish to have a good time. It's your game, as rulebooks have always said and will no doubt continue to underline unto the nth edition, world without end.

What this article, and articles like it, is politely requesting - and all it is requesting - is that, given that there are a not-insignificant number of people in the hobby who fall on one axis or another outside the white/male/straight/cisgendered/abled et al profile; and that most people of goodwill can agree that not meeting one or more of those categories of privilege shouldn't place you outside the default "unmarked state" of full personhood; that maybe it would be nice if a little more of the official, core-rulebook art could reflect and represent the diversity of human personhood, without resorting to dumb stereotypes, so that these players can better feel completely welcome in the gaming community and not like second-class participants who are grudgingly allowed to hang out with the people who really matter. And that maybe the entire burden of "use your imagination if you want something outside The Norm" doesn't always fall on people who have to deal with the crap of being Not The Norm in their non-fantasy lives.

Again, and again, is the request to share the toys with someone who's not completely like you really that onerous?

(And on preview, I see mordicai has beaten me to my second paragraph. But maybe it bears saying twice.)
JP Chapleau
254. SF
@251 Aaron Stack

How does greater diversity in the artwork cut down on the freedom of choice available to players in terms of the characters they play or have in their games?
JP Chapleau
257. MarvelX42
WTF is that comic page about? How many times has Hal saved millions, billions of lives, saved the entire Earth, galaxy or even the entire universe? How damn selfish does someone have to be to say hey you saved the entirty of creation but I got bills to pay?
Mordicai Knode
258. mordicai
257. MarvelX42

It is a series of iconic panels from a period of time when comics were being to address real world issues. When people started asking questions like "if there are superheroes saving the day, why is there systemic inequality in America? What is Superman doing to advance the cause of Civil Rights? Why are all these caped crusaders a bunch of white men?" I'd really look into it; there are fun stories to tell when you pit the omnipotence of someone like Green Lantern against the complex sociopolitical realities of the world. & you also find out that sometimes, when you call for equality in art, you get a surprising number of people who oppose that. As you can see in this thread. So you might consider the panels as being something more like:
I've been readin' about you . . . How you work for the dragonborn . . . and how on a plane someplace you helped out the tieflings . . . and you done considerable for the half-orcs! Only there's race you never bother with -- non-white humanoids! I want to know . . . how come?! Answer me that, Mr. Melf!
In a world where riding a dragon or teleporting to a new kingdom is possible, where raising the dead is an option & where a variety of non-human species live side by side...how is diverse depictions of race somehow outside the bounds of what people are willing to accept?
JP Chapleau
259. James Davis Nicoll
What is Superman doing to advance the cause of Civil Rights?

Lots, in the old days. In the 1970s the Oans managed to convince him he was retarding human social progress by intervening in, for example, the ruthless exploitation of farm workers by their bosses, and that he should stick to handling natural disasters. Note that the Oans have a lot to lose if the little people of the galaxy ever start questioning the wisdom of the people up at the top: today it's "why I am barely able to survive on what I make from my back breaking labour" and tomorrow it "So explain the exact chain of logic that led from 'wow, there's a lot of crime' to 'Let's build a legion of killer robots to take care of that'," and "Explain again how your rigorous system of selecting Green Lanterns resulted in the selection of Sinestro and Universo?"

(You know, I cannot recall if Clark Kent went after the ruthless farm bosses or not. I don't think so, though)
JP Chapleau
260. James Davis Nicoll
Re diversity in Olden TImes: from the Cursing of Agade, a 4000-year-old poem, the early bit where things are as they should be:

Like a young man building a house for the first time, like a girl establishing a woman's domain, holy Inana did not sleep as she ensured that the warehouses would be provisioned; that dwellings would be founded in the city; that its people would eat splendid food; that its people would drink splendid beverages; that those bathed for holidays would rejoice in the courtyards; that the people would throng the places of celebration; that acquaintances would dine together; that foreigners would cruise about like unusual birds in the sky; that even Marhaci would be re-entered on the tribute rolls;

Note that in a well-ordered city of the ancient past, there are supposed to be foreigners (I'm guessing there's very little like this sentiment from ancient Egypt but the Akkadians and those who followed were not as isolated).
Mordicai Knode
261. mordicai
259. James Davis Nicoll

...right, & the tip of the scales from Silver Age to Bronze Age is part of our shared legacy! I'm saying that the GL #76 is an encapsulation of that movement to increased awareness in comic books & comic book writers. To sort of bring the conversation back to the subject at hand, DC tried to reboot their universe with a more diverse cast of characters after Crisis on Infinite Earths, but in many cases that didn't stick, sadly. Still, it did give us new characters who broke the white male mold, even if modern writers obsessed with the comics of their youth have trended towards replacing the legacy characters with the "originals." Dungeons & Dragons doesn't have a cast of characters, really-- I mean, I may have a soft spot for Lidda but she's not like a brand identity mascot-- so they don't have that same inertia to combat; all it takes is a little mindfulness in the art direction & style bible.
JP Chapleau
262. James Davis Nicoll
Another historical setting known for its "complex and cosmopolitan society" would be Srivijaya, which controled two crucial trade choke points in South East Asia. I'm fond of this one due to an irrational attraction to archipelagos as settings:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srivijaya

It seems to have been rolled up by Majapahit, which also by its nature would have had to be pretty diverse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majapahit
JP Chapleau
263. James Davis Nicoll
Still, it did give us new characters who broke the white male mold

Ever notice how many of the JSA were not just white males but white *blond* males?
JP Chapleau
264. James Davis Nicoll
an irrational attraction to archipelagos as settings:

Which I blame on (in no particular order) my grandfather coming from Hawaii , Martin and Tuttle's Windhaven, Gerrold's Moonstar Odyssey, and of course the Earthsea trilogy.

1: My father moved to Canada in part *for the climate*. I'll concede Sean Stewart got an even worse deal but my dad moved here *for the climate*.
JP Chapleau
265. CaitieCat
I think you're letting your emotions get the better of you, there, @263, Mr. Nicoll; what you meant was, "Ever notice how awesome it was that most of the JSA were default humans, not those defective ones without penes, or the ones with off-colour skin? And how natural and easy it all seemed, back in those awesome days, for all of those default humans. Ahh, those were the days."

*piano music*

And you knew who was who then
Girls for sex and capes were men
Mister we need a white Lantern
Like Hal Jordan again

Spiderman was white back then
Marvel made Luke Cage for "them"
Great to have all-white X-Men...
Those were the days!

Mmm. Nostalgia.
Ursula L
267. Ursula
You know, I wouldn't have a problem with a company using a quota system for their professionally commissioned art. It's a good way to measure how you're doing in terms of diversity.

It doesn't have any of the problems of strict quotas in hiring or education, because drawings, not people are what is being counted.

The people making D&D aren't just asking random artists to create art, they're asking for very specific things so that each illustration matches the text is is intended to illustrate. Making a point of requesting a variety of ethnic charaters can be just part of that process.

If someone goes through the last four editions of your work, and shows that you've got whitewashed art, it should be a wake up call. You haven't been colorblind, you've been blind to people of color.

And the only way to know if you're addressing the problem is to keep count for a while, disciplining yourself to a new habit of being inclusive. It's D&D. They have dice. So roll some dice to decide the race and gender of the characters in the written descriptions of what you're commissioning. If you're showing romantic groupings, roll some more dice and include the QUILTBAG spectrum.

It takes discipline and work to stop being blind to these issues. And it helps to develop tools to get you past your weaknesses.
JP Chapleau
268. James Davis Nicoll
you've been blind to people of color.

From Better Off Ted's "Racial Sensitivity" episode (Ted heads an R&D section at Veridian Dynamics, Veronica is his unselfconsciously amoral boss. The situation is that Veridian Dynamics has installed a new energy saving system that turns off the lights if nobody is in the room and as African American Lem has discovered, the lights turn off if he is the only person in the room. The same system also controls the automatic doors ):

Ted: The system doesn't see black people?

Veronica: I know. Weird, huh?

Ted: That's more than weird, Veronica. That's basically, well... racist.

Veronica: The company's position is that it's actually the
opposite of racist, because it's not targeting black people. It's just
ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is
"indifferent."

Ted: Well, they know it has to be fixed, right? Please... at least say they know that.

Veronica: Of course they do, and they're working on it. In the meantime they'd like everyone to celebrate the fact that it sees
Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Jews.
Mordicai Knode
269. mordicai
264. James Davis Nicoll

I like Peloponnese-types, since they let you collide two similar but distinct kingdoms together, personally.
JP Chapleau
270. XO Tigh
I thought this was going to be about adding more fantasy races. I stopped reading when I realized you were breaking real-life races down into a numbers game. How moot and narrow-minded.
Mordicai Knode
271. mordicai
270. XO Tigh

I'm not sure how acknowledging the diversity of the real world & noting that DnD doesn't reflect that makes me the narrow-minded one. As a Spaniard once said: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

(& what, calling for more fantasy races? Hasn't a significant bulk of DnD 4e been loading on crystal people, half-werewolves, vampire people, & all that jazz? I mean, I don't mind-- build away-- but I don't think that is like, a glaring hole in Dungeons & Dragons.)
JP Chapleau
273. XO Tigh
@ 271. mordicai

"Narrow-minded" tempered by "moot". I say this because it seems narrow to align a fantasy world with real-world expectations of race. Your auditing the fantasy artwork really has no point, since you are auditing fantasy, which is expansive in nature.

Therefore, makeing sure we have more "readily identifiable real-world races all represented" is moot when the goal here is to take people out of themselves anyway. It's moot because you are asking that a fantasy world acknowledge the real world. If we keep going down that road, are we supposed to make minorities appear according to the minority percent they make up the human race? Or is this equal-opportunity fantasy you are envisioning?

When I say narrow-minded, I'm not referring to your sense of inclusion. I'm referring to your imagination. It's in your approach. Real-world race in a fantasy world is a non-issue unless it's a fantasy world issue. I could just as well say you are racist for thinking there are too many crystal people in DnD 4e. What's your issue with them?


PS, 247. MatthewB

"I'm still at a complete loss when it comes to understanding how any reasonable person could have a problem with this suggestion."


I'd say that any rational skeptic worth his salt would freely question and debate it.
JP Chapleau
274. XO Tigh
I'll also add my philosophy:

Add diversity, don't regulate it. If you think something isn't represented in the world, put it there instead of demanding it (or modestly proposing it).
JP Chapleau
275. seth e.
Mordicai shouldn't have to be the only one responding at this late date.

XO Tigh @274 - In a capitalist society, one of the ways people "put diversity there" is by making their desires known to companies who make products. That's how it works, and it's not "regulating" anything. Nobody's getting the government involved, there are no quotas. Why is suggesting something like this a bad move? What harm would it do you?

@273 - Therefore, makeing sure we have more "readily identifiable real-world races all represented" is moot when the goal here is to take people out of themselves anyway.

Except that white people still exist in RPG art and concepts. White gamers aren't necessarily being taken out of themselves, they're everywhere. Do gamers of color play RPGs in order to be taken out of a world in which they themselves exist? See this story, or this one, and the idea of "the colonization of the imagination," for why this might be a bad idea.

Again with the argument that because fantasy is "expansive," you shouldn't have to be confronted with anything that might genuinely expand you. It's not a very good argument.
Mordicai Knode
276. mordicai
274. XO Tigh

Oh, here is a fun example. I use a lot of illustrations as props in my game. I bring them to game & I say "this model in Alexander McQueen is the princess" or "this Pathfinder paladin is the captain of the guard." So from a strictly selfish point of view, more diverse depictions in the art & the miniatures would be a huge boon to me adding it into the game.

I don't think there is equivilancy in your argument, though. Yeah, I can add more diversity in my campaign. If the core rule books had a diverse cast of characters...then someone could remove all the people of color from your campaign, if they so saw fit. I'm not talking about campaigns here, or setting books. I'm talking about the default portrayal.

Um, yes, this is equal opportunity fantasy that I am envisioning. Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

(My biggest problem with the crystal people is the same as my problem with dragonborn...why do they have breasts? WHY.)
Tracy Hurley
277. SarahDarkmagic
276. mordicai

The prevalence of breasts on creatures that shouldn't or don't have to have breasts is pretty strange at times. One answer I've heard is that it's hard otherwise to know if the characters are female if they don't have them. I personally find that a bit of a lazy answer but I think there's a bit of truth to it. While we have long-standing traditions of symbols and stances and the like to use to display the subtler differentiations between male characters, and particularly white male characters, we lack that when it comes to women and often PoC. Both the links from seth e. in 275 discuss that a bit, particularly the one on casting in films. It's an important discussion for us to have at some point I think.
Matthew B
278. MatthewB
@273 XO Tigh Honest and open questioning and debate - i'm all for that - some of it is happening here, but most of the detractors don't fall into that bucket. I see a lot of out-of-hand dismissal, straw men, slippery slopes, and arguments that can only be made from positions of priviledged (and often stubborn) ignorance.

Let's try a different tack. Imagine if we we were talking about the trees in the background of the illustrations. Mordicai went through and saw that 50% of the trees were oaks, 30% were Seussian truffula trees, and 20% were a combination of maples, evergreens, willows, etc. Mordicai says it would be nice to see more different types of trees in the art.
"I'm Canadian, but i like oaks and i've never had a problem imagining maples and other trees, so why can't other people just imagine them too?"
"It's a game with truffula trees - why are you worried about evergreens and willows?"
"D&D has always featured oaks - why do you want to change it now?"
"The whole genre of fantasy upon which D&D is based has a strong tradition of oak trees. D&D is just reflecting that."
"The artists had a good reason for putting in all those oaks - just let them be creative and do what they want."
"My setting only has oak trees for a very good reason. If you put other kinds of trees in it I will have a harder time visualizing my campaign."
"You should just make your own art with other trees in it instead of trying to force everyone to do things your way."
"If you add in evergreens then you'll need to add in the beetles and fungi that only affect those trees too as well as rules for burn rates and quality of furniture made with exotic wood. Too complicated. Much easier to just stick with oaks."
JP Chapleau
279. DarrenJL
This oped doesn't really say much. And I do have some issues with it.

1) AFAIK, Tor doesn't publish D&D, so you can't really get any answers to your question(s).

2) You're right to point out that your opinion was "hardly scientific". I for one would like to see some numbers. Not because I disagree with you, but because I'm genuinely curious. Haven't played D&D in years... okay okay... decades... and I have no idea whether or not what you're saying is true. But I think it's pretty inflammatory and irresponsible to insinuate racism without providing figures.

2b)Comparing Pathfinder to 2nd Ed. AD&D is also... weird. Most of the art in the latter would have been b&w ink line art.

2c)You say:
"maybe the makers of D&D should take some of the effort being put
into bending over backwards to explain why they don’t need to reflect
the diversity in the real world"

But you don't source Wizards of the Coast (poor TSI) making any such claims. Either link to an interview or press release of them making such a bending over backwards defense, or slow your roll.

3) What was with that comment about Scott McCloud? I'd like to know where you were going with that, before I get offended.
Brian R
280. Mayhem
@278
But if we get rid of the oaks, how are the Dryads going to reproduce?
Why are you promoting genocide of an entire species like that by insisting we immediately cut down the entire forest and replace them with Trees of More Colours? That's just pandering to the minorities!

/yeesh
@268
I also love how their 'solution' was simply to hire cheap white people to follow all the black people around.
Diversity according to Veridian Dynamics
JP Chapleau
281. XO Tigh- b
278. MatthewB

"I can only relate to Seussian trees. I don't see them here so this game is bunk. I only accept games where all trees are represented equally."

People don't think this way, even though it is idealized that they should. The world isn't balanced in it's aspects much to say that there isn't an equal amount of gold as there is iron on the planet, and moving the artist's hand to represent things as such to my mind takes people out of the fantasy more than you might think. Besides, it's FANTASY. Not reality. The expectation IS that there is a mismatch, not closer alignment. That's why this debate is moot.

But fine, when it gets down to it, the argument here is that people should be equally marketed to. People don't just automatically identify more to a product when they see that their skintones are there under the iron helmet. There are more aspects to feeling affinity to a product than just demographic or psychographic and crafting that affinity is a subtler task than just applying a heavier smattering of black or asian to make things an even albiet more diverse playing field.

The effort is well intentioned, but to my mind, the best way to go about representing diversity is by adding, not changing. If it truly is a capitalist society, the market will bear what people want. I speak having worked in marketing and advertising as an art director for years (and a minority) and not from some walled-in priveledged ignorance (not that I should have to qualify my viewpoint in the debate even if I was white). Countless times I've had to go into a project to make the content "more diverse" in the name of selling product. Make the white lady darker so hispanics identify more. Take the white guy out and make him asian. Make the black guy taller than everyone else in the picture and put him in the middle. Color is a spectrum that ends up filtered into narrow buckets of "race" when put at the end of my paintbrush for marketing purposes, which is why I have such a distaste for this type of artistry. So when you say "I want more seussian trees" I tend to say "grow your own".
Matthew B
282. MatthewB
@279. DarrenJL
1) But they do have access to the internet and a keen interest in reading what people are saying about their efforts. There's a good chance they'll see this.

2) It's neither inflammatory nor incendiary. He's not calling out people by name as racists - he's suggesting that the organization should try for more diversity in their art.

2b) He actually compares Pathfinder to 4th and 3rd - not 2nd. 2nd was the frst edition to use a lot of color art so such a comparison would not be weird.

2c) You might be right here. Though the community at large seems to be putting effort into that, WotC is largely silent about it, or paying lip service to diversity while continuing to favor the white male fighter.

3) I think he was alluding to the fact that McLoud has similarly called for more diversity in comics. Perhaps there's a more specific refernce than that - i'm not sure.
Matthew B
283. MatthewB
@281. XO Tigh- b

"I can only relate to Seussian trees. I don't see them here so this game is bunk. I only accept games where all trees are represented equally."

I don't think anyone here (certainly not me) is suggesting such a simplistic view.

Am i misreading the part where you seem to be saying that it's all moot because overwhelming whiteness is weird and we expect fantasy to be weird? That makes no sense at all.

Beyond that point it seems like your objection is primarily aesthetic. Is that correct? You're ok with the art director saying "I want a picture of a human that captures the spirit of the fighter class." But you wouldn't be ok with them saying "I want a picture of a brown-skinned female human that captures the spirit of the fighter class."

I don't want to misrepresent you here I'm honestly having trouble figuring out exactly what you don't like about this.
JP Chapleau
284. seth e.
XO Tigh- b @281 - If you're saying that this sort of thing ought to come up naturally through self-representation, that's fair enough, I can see that point. It's not my intent to speak for anyone else, or tell them how they need to be represented, and I'm sorry if I've done that to anyone. But I still don't understand what the harm is in asking for different kinds of people to be represented.

What you say about multi-ethnic representation in marketing is interesting, and it goes back to D&D being fantasy. You see examples all the time of people of color Photoshopped into photos of college campuses, for instance, to make the school look more diverse. That's crap, because it's misrepresenting reality. Taking people of whatever ethnicity out of context to make yourself look more inclusive is ridiculous.

But because D&D settings are fantasy, surely this is a chance to create context, to imagine a more fully realized adventure world, one that reflects even more of our own world. And as for asking WoC to consider it in their art--fair or not, it's their ball game, they have a disproportionate amount of power in determining how people imagine these settings. What's wrong with asking them to broaden their perspective on human characters?
JP Chapleau
285. XO Tigh
283. MatthewB

"Am i misreading the part where you seem to be saying that it's all moot because overwhelming whiteness is weird and we expect fantasy to be weird? That makes no sense at all."


What I see is moot is how you are taking issue with how fantasy aligns with reality.

I don't take issue with aesthetics. I take issue with a race representation checklist as a means to implement diversity because I know how it narrows the grayscale of human beings into categories.
Matthew B
286. MatthewB
@285. XO Tigh

So it's not a problem, and even if it was, a quota system would not be the right way to handle it?

I think you're just plain wrong on that first part, but if hundreds of posts citing aesthetic, cultural, and social reasons for wanting more diversity doesn't sway you then i don't think there's much more to say about it.

As for the latter...while i don't think a checklist system would be worse than the lack of representation we have now, it's not the only solution, nor even the most common suggestion. A very unstructured "put a little more thought and effort into it" seems to be what most people are asking for. There's also Sarah's Prismatic Art project, which seems like the "grow your own" option you suggested earlier.

As above, if those aren't the kinds of things you could support, i guess we're at an impasse, but i really want to reiterate that i truly do not understand the objections at all. What is there to gain by maintaining the status quo or lose by encouraging diversity? If someone could actually explain this to me I'd be grateful.
JP Chapleau
287. Kenneth G
Ok. I figured it out, and its a very simple fix.

We should all petition for RPG publisher to declare that the standard humans in RPGs are all descended from the ancient "Arpeegee" tribe, who are notibly a uniform neon orange in color due to the various gods wanting to make sure the sneaky humans could be more easily spotted when plotting against them.

The DM's can then - as house rules - add any racial/cultural diversity as they wish, but in all offical publications, only the "offical"
Arpeegee Humans would be depicted.
Mordicai Knode
288. mordicai
279. DarrenJL

1) I don't see your point here? Tor.com is a platform, you are right-- they aren't the ones who publish DnD. I never acted as though they were?

2) Oh this sounds like an awesome opportunity to peer review! I'm genuinely curious to see what kind of count other people come up with.

2b) You'd be surprised at the ammount of colour illustration in the AD&D 2e book. Also-- line drawings can still show skin tone? Anyhow, the whole point was to include temporal drift.

2c) Actually, that charge was originally leveled at the people I presumed would bend over backwards-- you see them upthread-- but something got lost in the editing.

3) I'm specifically talking about this illustration here.
Mordicai Knode
289. mordicai
287. Kenneth G

Yeah, that is what I'm saying; I should have written THAT satirical piece.
JP Chapleau
290. DarrenJL
@MatthewB

Here was the quote:
"I flipped through an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player’s Handbook"

Not sure why you went to the effort to correct my statement there without even reading the article to check.
JP Chapleau
291. DarrenJL
I'm probably wrong here, but the sense I got was that you wanted to write about how awesome Pathfinder was for showing more of their colour palette than say D&D.

I guess I have a problem with singling them (WotC) out. I've played all sorts of rpgs. Counting the fantasy rpgs alone, Rolemaster always seemed to be mostly caucasian for the human characters. Warhammer (at least in the late 80s, when I played it) was pretty heavy on dwarves and so on, but a lot of the humans did seem caucasian. Pendragon was all caucasian, even the later editions, which were less interested in being true to "THE" Camelot mythology, and started adding at least more gender-role diversity than you see in Malory. I could go on, but I'd just be going on and on.

And you're right that showing diversity is awesome, but for some reason your article just struck me as a little Apple Fanboy-y. "Here's ANOTHER reason why Pathfinder is better than D&D". I know you have the line in there about how you wanted to avoid that, but it's tough to swallow, when the meat of your argument is all a comparison between Pathfinder art and D&D art.

I also think if you're going to make the argument, then I want to see some graphs. But I've said that already.
Mordicai Knode
292. mordicai
285. XO Tigh

You're the one bringing in quotas & checklists. The problem here is that doing nothing is resulting in...well, nothing. The tonal scale of skin tones is being under-represented. Not that skin tone is the be-all-end-all either; facial features, hair types, body types, those aren't being carried over either. Todd Lockwood, as mentioned, used that sliding scale to good effect; creating iconic characters who were ambiguous, but then other artists brought their vision to the table & by & large white washed them. With the occasional exception of Regdar.
Mordicai Knode
293. mordicai
291. DarrenJL

I singled out WotC because Dungeons & Dragons is the icon. I mentioned Pathfinder because they are the big alternative to DnD these days, & because they are an example of how to do it right. I do like Pathfinder products-- which is why I acknowledged my bias up front-- but again, I challenge you to take a critical look at their Core Rulebook & come to a different conclusion.
JP Chapleau
294. XO. Tigh
292. mordicai

"You're the one bringing in quotas & checklists."

Nope. I'll refer you to
284. seth e.
who understands what I'm having trouble explaingin to you.
Mordicai Knode
295. mordicai
294. XO. Tigh

...right, but this isn't a call for tokenism. I don't accept that the only options are "do nothing, keep DnD whitewashed" or "do something, have it be insulting reductionism." You are painting a false dichotomy. I again point to the Pathfinder Core Rulebook as proof of concept here; it can be done, so why are people struggling against it being done?
JP Chapleau
296. seth e.
XO TIgh @294 - Well, I understood your point, but I also disagreed with it--that is, I thought it was too limiting. Grassroots creation is great, but publically making suggestions to the big industry-standard companies is also a form of grassroots action.

Also, you're the one who used the words "numbers game", "minority percent," and "regulating." If that doesn't imply quotas, what do you mean by them? Who's regulating what numbers here?

Also also, totally agree with Mordicai on the lack of tokenism. You are making a false dichotomy.
JP Chapleau
297. XO Tigh
I was referring to numbers and such in reference to the art audit.


Fair enough. We all agree that diversity is good. I'm more of a hands-off kind of guy, so I disagre with the solution. *shrug*
Mordicai Knode
298. mordicai
297. XO Tigh

The solution of...asking? That is too hands-on? Saying "hey some of your fans would like more diversity & I bet more diversity would get you more fans" is too hands-on?
Cait Glasson
299. CaitieCat
I have been admiring your talk-jitsu, mordicai, and wanted to let you know. Sorry to have left you to do all the spellwork alone. /ic

- Jasta Mur, a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, honey-voiced L6 human bard of Sanctuary (in a fun old campaign of mine we pick up from time to time).
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
300. tnh
Mordicai's a wizard. It's been fun to watch.
JP Chapleau
301. seth e.
I'm just tripling up on the Mordicai appreciation. Great arguments, and a constantly positive, forward-looking tone. It really has been a pleasure to watch.
Mordicai Knode
303. mordicai
299. CaitieCat
300. tnh
301. seth e.

I mean, I was a white kid with an infinite sense of entitlement myself at some point. I had to figure out about my massive invisible backpack & unpack it. Or start to, you know? So I try not to get too bummed at people who (in my estimation) are making arguments from a position blinded by privilige. Everyone starts out blinded to context; we have to work to acknowledge the cogs & gears of the social machine. Happily, the more success we have, the easier it gets, & hey! Maybe increased portrayals of diversity will give people a "default state" of realizing that people other than white men exist. You can say I'm a dreamer...
JP Chapleau
304. Shanz
303. mordicai

"Maybe increased portrayals of diversity will give people a "default state" of realizing that people other than white men exist."

And maybe increased years or increased wisdom will give you an understanding of how incredibly offensive it is to claim that "people" have a "default state" of not "realizing that people other than white men exist".


Who are these "people"?! I don't know any. The statement as written simply cannot apply to 5/6ths of the people on the planet, by default.

I mean, really! Even if we just limit it to "roleplayers". All the ethnically diverse people I've shared this hobby with over 3 decades don't realize that people other than white men exist? I'd say they might disagree with you, there.

If you limited yourself to pronouncing that "there is a vanishingly small group of ignorant gamers in North America who might benefit from seeing more of what I, mordicai, deem to be sufficiently diverse racial attributes in the role playing source materials" then I'd have no disagreement with you. Doubtless there are people to whom that statement might apply.

There is an enourmous amount of room to strongly disagree with everything you've written here, and come far, far short of "racist", or even be guilty of anything remotely resembling "entitlement".

The parts of your comment at 303 where you talk about yourself were genuinely interesting and I respect you for making them. It's where you presume to speak for "people" that it all goes wrong.
Matthew B
305. MatthewB
@304. Shanz
I get the impression that you know that statement was not intended to be taken literally and you just want to be righteously indignant. I've played for a long time and with a fairly diverse set of people too, but the vast majority either would enjoy more diversity in the art or would fit the "blinded by priviledge" category.
Please enlighten us with your disagreements that are neither racist nor priviledged. I haven't yet seen any that i would call reasonable.
Mordicai Knode
306. mordicai
304. Shanz

I guess where we'd disagree is with the "vanishingly small" bit. I think the "controversy" that my simple request for increased diversity stirred up is compelling evidence that the number isn't small, & I don't think it will vanish on its own. That isn't how ignorance works. You have to correct it. Things don't magically get better without effort. The center does not hold & all that.

Considering that the core of my argument was "white men are not the default & I hope the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons reflects that," yeah, I feel okay saying people. There is a vast tendency in Western Media to present white men as the default. The Bechdel Test is a good example of how media fails women; converting the same rubric to race will yeild similar results (though I don't know of a pithy name for it)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
308. tnh
Shanz, cool it. He's not using "people" in any looser sense than you did in your earlier comments in this thread. As for the substance of his remarks, allow me to quote from one of those earlier comments of yours:
I honestly cannot tell you what color the elves are in the various worlds I've DMed over the 30 years I've played D&D. It never came up. I don't know the "human race" of even one of the hundreds of human characters my friends have played. It never came up. Occasionally various players would describe the societies their characters were from (or I would), but I can hold my hand over my heart and tell you that skin color simply never came up.
I'm pretty sure you can't award yourself points for being aware of race and for not being aware of race in the same game.
JP Chapleau
309. SlrDarien
I am all for divercity in my fantasy fiction, so I went back through all my core rulebooks after reading this and came back to the same conclusion as I always had. Most of the Human art work (third edition) that I look at is very racially non-specific. This is what I have always loved about D&D in the first place. it’s NOT clear and I don't think it should be.

The skin range in the book says humans can range from pasty white to dark black. But the artwork was rarely very clear as to race for humans. Besides I rarely have ever heard anyone say "I look like the guy in the book" Our imagination knows what we want our guy or girl to look like "No! I have gray eyes!" and while artwork might influence us it rarely creatives a massive alteration to who we want to pretend to be that day.

Oriental adventures should be brought up, it’s an entire book dedicated to a foreign culture, doesn’t make it racist. Show me the “only white humans handbook” and we can talk racism.


We have Elves, Dwarves, Duergar , Draw, Orcs, Draconiens, Halflings, Kender... oh right and sometimes people chose to play a humen. Most players I have gamed with will give their character a skin tone close to their own... is THAT racist? No! It's just us using our imaginations, just like the talented artists do when they draw for these books.
Mordicai Knode
310. mordicai
309. SlrDarien

I mean, your findings recapitulate what I said regarding 3e, & what was discussed upthread with Todd Lockwood in person-- namely, that 3e was purposefully & mindfully ambiguous. That has its own problems-- again, marginalizing people who don't fall in the "ambiguous" category by any stretch of the imagination like Grace Jones Ember-- but is at least a strategy. 4e however doesn't reflect that same ethos, so please don't cherry pick examples. As for Oriental Adventures, that is a campaign book, not a core book; the poin here is that "basically only white humans" is in fact the core book.

Bringing up a litany of fantasy species is muddying the waters-- especially when those Elves, Dwarves & Halflings (lets stick with core races) are also portrayed as being white. No one is saying your players are forced to play any kind of character but they one they want to play...though you bring up a perfect point. Perhaps, if there were more diverse ethnic backrounds portrayed in the core books, some of your players would be inspired to play a character who didn't share their skin tone.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
311. tnh
SlrDarien, I don't think it would be immediately evident to you why nonspecific art can be a problem. You're a citizen of the unmarked state, so all your life you've been able to assume that you're included in every category that doesn't specifically exclude you.

Persons of color don't get to assume that. The penalties for guessing wrong are somewhat less severe than they used to be, but they still exist. POCs thus look for signs that they are included, and if they don't find them, they assume that the thing in question isn't meant for them. If you re-read the thread with that in mind, you'll find commenters confirming that art that is explicitly more racially diverse would make a difference to them.
JP Chapleau
312. BrianBrian
I see you credited the artwork to the artists, but perhaps crediting those that hold copyright to that art would be appropriate? Since, you know, those are all works for hire that the artists don't own.
Mordicai Knode
313. mordicai
312. BrianBrian

I thought that the context of the article made that explicit, but for the record: Ember (by Todd Lockwood) is a Wizards of the Coast property; Seelah, Seoni & Sajan (by Wayne Reynolds) are a Paizo jam, Roy Greenhilt is Rich Burlew lock, stock & barrel & Green Lantern is a DC comics character.
JP Chapleau
314. CaitieCat
The bit I just honestly don't get at all is: if this is so unimportant to you it's hard to believe, as seems to be the gist of the 'mordicai is a PC dupe' crowd, why are you arguing so hard against it?

Seriously. How do those ideas work for you, residing in the same place at the same time? That you simultaneously couldn't care less, and yet spend endless keystrokes in justification, rationalization, and dismissal of POC/the problem/white liberal guilt/so-called "political correctness"*/whatever else you're dismissing today, is just baffling.

In the end, this one was solved for me many years ago, when I realized that one thing gamers always want more of, is other players. And I want that too.

Other players and potential players are speaking out to you, "default people". Do you want more gamers, more friends, more opponents and sidekicks and DMs and artists and writers and editors and all the other things that go into making gaming a viable thing, or do you NOT want more?

Because mordicai is saying: "Hey - POC say they're underrepresented, and yeah, this white guy says it looks like they've got a case. Let's get POC more presence within gaming texts, and then more people will join us (who are already gamers) in playing the games we love, because it will enable the same fantasies and enjoyment we* white (and some hardy POC) gamers have had since it all got started."

I just don't get arguing against that. Never have. There is a thread full of people who would love to feel represented by the games we all love, right here. Why the hell do people want to preemptively disdain anyone who isn't in the small fraction of humanity that comes in pale pink? It just doesn't make sense.

* "PC", of course, being a term used almost exclusively by the right against progressives, as a sneering dog-whistle to anyone who thinks equal rights are "special" rights.

** Speaking, like mordicai, as a self-identified white person.

(not signed in because I'm at dinner at work, but this is the same CaitieCat as above, as I'm sure a mod could confirm if anyone questions.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
315. tnh
CaitieCat, I think it should be obvious that you're the same person; but in case someone raises the question, I hereby confirm it.
Cait Glasson
316. CaitieCat
It's the particular shade of purple in my prose, isn't it?

I need a good editor.
Cait Glasson
319. CaitieCat
*pokes thread*

I think it's dead, Jim.
JP Chapleau
320. James Davis Nicoll
I think it's dead, Jim.

(Holds cap over heart)

Matthew B
323. MatthewB
Not dead yet!

Just ran into this discussion of issues of Contemporary Art and RPG Illustration from a couple years ago. Not specifically about diversity but touches on it. For all i know, some of the people involved there are already in this thread because the stuff they are saying sounds very familiar. (The show for which they were prepping.)

Scroll down to the middle of the page and you will find this picture accompanied by the original art direction:
This lithe and athletic survivor is wearing HIDE ARMOR made from the gray, spiky plates of a macetail behemoth. Her skin is dark brown, and her curly black hair is kept short; on Earth, one would assume that she was from Africa. She has a simple, functional, and deadly-looking GREATAXE strapped over her back, and a coil of rope at her belt.
I cannot in good conscience link to that art without also linking to this satirical take on it. Like all good satire, it walks the line between going just far enough to get the point across and going too far.

I should also point out the follow-up article which shows that D&D is trying to do better and features Julie Dillon, who is my current favorite fantasy artist.
JP Chapleau
324. Guy Incognito
DISCLAIMER: I support the efforts of artists (the Prismatic art collection) to create more diverse works in the RPG industry. True diversity is amazing, and a fresh way to see things. It's through true desire to create such things that will drive innovation. However....

After reading through this mighty thread, I've come to a few conclusions.

1.) If you argue against what seems to be a call for implemented quotas (that is the only way to force a corporation to do as you want, otherwise only market forces will affect them), you are a racist (or, if we're avoiding the moderator, you're "blinded by privledge").

2.) Euro-centric and white is seen as "overdone" and bad. Any depiction of a Germanic man in Germanic style armor fighting Orcs (oh dear no, this clearly must be a call to slay the "dark skinned other". Surely we must strive to make the game not about dungeon bashing and loot, but about tearful Dances with Worgs scenes with these surely noble savages.) that isn't accompanied by an equal amount of female minority characters in the same armor, is to be denounced as racist.

3.) Anyone who doesn't draw "diverse" characters (to a certain arbitrary percentage) is a racist. So if I enjoy drawing Japanese samurai characters, that is ok. If I enjoy drawing French Knights, or Spanish Sword & Buckler men, I am racist and need to reflect on how horrible I am.

Force is the issue here. Some of you denounce artists for drawing what they want to draw. Would you be so bold as to call a black artist a racist, if the vast majority of his/her work depict black men/women? Should they be forced (if not literally, then by public shaming) then, to draw more white men? If you're an artist, and submit work to a company of a black knight, and they tell you to change it to a white man; they are WRONG. The reverse holds true. It's wrong to try to force any artist to change their work to fit some ideal cultural mold, whether it's white washing, or "diversifying"(sp?)

So what's my suggestion? MORE art (hell, make it smaller if you want to save money). I want to see more than one kind of paladin. I want them to show me a French-style knight on horseback, an Arabian knight on a Camel, a Samurai with full banners and an elephant riding Carthinagen warrior. There's diversity without taking anything away, or screaming racist at someone who wants to draw a white Knight. If a game is taking place in a euro-centric setting, there will probably be a majority white(ish) skin tone for most characters. This isn't a bad thing. If the game takes place in Al'Quadim, most characters will be Arabic. This does not preclude the inclusion of other characters, but a forced demographic will look as rediculous as Tom Cruise in the "Last Samurai". Seriously folks, the second you have a white man (or hell, asian or hispanic) in Impi warrior gear and war paint on the cover of D&D: "Africaland" setting (this is assuming that you are for full diversity in all settings, not just eliminating white characters from euro-centric ones), the world will flip it's collective excrement at the blatant "racism". Just my two cents.
Mordicai Knode
325. mordicai
323. MatthewB

The Druidesses of Cok Grove beat the crap out of my character around fourth level or so. I mean, sure, they are problematic, but problematic is just what we white men say when we realize we're being racist or sexist but just decide to go along with it anyway...

(Also lets see if we can revive the thread by making this an Old School / New School debate. Death to the OSR! But not really.)
Mordicai Knode
326. mordicai
324. Guy Incognito

1. Weirdly enough, the only people who bring up quotas in the thread are people who start off arguing against diversity. I certainly never mentioned quotas. I made a call for mindfulness, & some people decided to distort that by using loaded terms like quotas.

You're right that it is easy for the debate to become polarized & for people to slide into "you don't agree with me, therefore you are racist." If it makes you feel better, you'll see that I've been accused of racism for acknowledging the cultural realitie of race-- since I don't claim to be colorblind, I am practically in the KKK myself, donchaknow! Still, I think there has been a core element of civility through the discourse, which I'd like to think I was part of.

2. So how's that now? I mean-- this goes to what I was saying earlier in the thread about The Big Bad Racism. Often I think that "racist!" has become a rhetorical sledgehammer-- the new Godwin's Law-- rather than, you know, an actually discussion of race & bias. Racism is not Either / Or. It is not EITHER you are a Nazi OR you are incapable of racial bias. It hampers the ability to actually discuss the subject at hand.

...but I confess I'm starting to think you have no real interest in a discourse here! Painting this as you do with there being one of those cheerful false dichotomies-- either "Germanic" knights OR noble savages. See, no one is asking for that; in fact, what they are asking for is a diverse & not two-toned simplification. You acknowledge the weird cultural narrative of things like Dances With Wolves, implicitly & explicitly, but then you undercut any attempt to actually discuss it by disdainfully misconstruing anyone who disagrees with you. Heck, I am tempted to read your concerns about being charged with racism as your prefiguring of your own debate techniques; i.e. full of rhetorical fallacies.

3. Yeah, I definitely think I'm going to stop giving you the benefit of the doubt. I tried to assume good faith as I read your comment but now it is pretty easy to see that you didn't read the post, or the thread of comments, even though you claim to. It is nice, however, to see such a lovely straw man! You've constructed a darling scarecrow!

If you had read the thread, you'd see that I am talking about core materials, not campaign settings. Of course, I think that you're right that cultural appropriation is a tricky thing; putting a white man in the garb of a Zulu warrior or in samurai gear is troubling. That is because of the realities of power hierarchies. You throw some histrionic examples around-- but where is this black illustrator doing only black characters? Because yeah! Lets hire that guy! There is a lot of persecution complex in your comment, but it doesn't reflect the real world. For all of your theoreticals, you fail to acknowledge reality. You know. The one where DnD exists & where the 4e PHB is overwhelmingly white.

Just my two cp though.
James Whitehead
327. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I think we need to call it. 327 (including this one) undeleted posts is very respectable really.

Last thing we need to to bring edition wars into it. That might melt the servers & then I won't get my fix of Leigh Butler's WOT reread; and bad things would happen then. Bad things. ;-)

Anyway, you want that kind of fun, just wait until the d&dNext edition starts to ramp up. Sit back with some drinks & popcorn & watch the fun.

As to the whole 'quota' thing I guess posters were simply taking the idea or more 'diversity' in d&d artwork and trying to figuring out how to quantify that; what constitutes more?

In the end for me, however, as long as it's good or fun art, I'm all for it. Considering the potentially mortal blow delt to the rpg industry by pc/online gaming, WotC (and others) would be foolish not to 'modernize,' if you will, to broaden their artwork's appeal. Alienating potential customers is never good business, for any company or industry.

Kato

PS - Mordicai - Old school all the way! ;-)
JP Chapleau
328. Guy Incognito
Though I'm not sure why you seem to think I'm not interested in dialogue for using snark to get my point across (clearly it has gone too far...), I honestly fail to see the straw man. If so, my apologies. My arguements were in response to various posts in this thread. For much of it, the racism charges to anyone who disagreed with your implied method (and if you don't imply that they use a percentage based rubric to determine how many "minorities" should be in the artwork, I apologize here and now for the assumption, it is an honest misinterperatation of tone over an electronic medium.) by various posters are best summed up in a few posts I'll paste below:

"I mean, I was a white kid with an infinite sense of entitlement myself at some point. I had to figure out about my massive invisible backpack & unpack it. Or start to, you know? So I try not to get too bummed at people who (in my estimation) are making arguments from a position blinded by privilige."
Frankly, this post truly just seems as a way to smugly dismiss any counter-arguement. It's basically calling any dissenter a poor, misguided, racist; but in a much more colorful manner. From the other posts I've seen here, it was uncalled for and insulting. You seem better than this.

My (extremely snarky) post about Orcs was in response to your statement...

"Moving "race" from ethnicity to species is something neat about the game-- & the X-men-- but it also brings up another kettle of worms. Namely, post-colonial agression & the orc. When is breaking into someone's house to kill them & steal their stuff heroic? Answer: when you call it a "dungeon delve!" The act of a bunch of white dudes killing a bunch of non-white orcs is a perfect example of how & why real world ethnicities need to be addressed."
Truly, I hate this arguement. The reason for such snark in my reply was that I've had to deal with this exact issue at the table recently. If we're going to pull a Dances with Wolves guilt trip every time we want a simple game with good vs. evil, then remove all of the "evil" humanoid races from the game entirely. My mockery of the subject is pure irritation at James Cameron's relentless ham fisted "Rawr! you're evil and white! and male! and American!" Yes, colonialism and imperialism are bad James, we get it. We didn't need dances with wolves 2: IN SPACE! Let us kill raiding orcs, because they're raiding orcs. We really shouldn't have to have a tea party cry fest every time, because we're surely being racially insensitive (there's that snark again...) to the bloodthirsty monster men who LITERALLY eat people.

(Disclaimer: I GREATLY enjoy playing Orcs. Both reformed, and naturally evil, they are a blast to play.)

As for my statement for ALL of post 3, it was in response to...

"If someone goes through the last four editions of your work, and shows that you've got whitewashed art, it should be a wake up call. You haven't been colorblind, you've been blind to people of color.

And the only way to know if you're addressing the problem is to keep count for a while, disciplining yourself to a new habit of being inclusive. It's D&D. They have dice. So roll some dice to decide the race and gender of the characters in the written descriptions of what you're commissioning. If you're showing romantic groupings, roll some more dice and include the QUILTBAG spectrum.

It takes discipline and work to stop being blind to these issues. And it helps to develop tools to get you past your weaknesses."
Seriously, this post was just saying "You draw too many white people. You're racist." No straw man in my response, it was literally just replying to someone being rediculous.

"You throw some histrionic examples around-- but where is this black illustrator doing only black characters? Because yeah! Lets hire that guy!"
You seem extremely defensive: "Histrionic", et al. And I'm not sure why. It would only be natural for an artist to create a majority works with his or her own experiences in mind. It certainly wouldn't be "histrionic" to assume that a white artist draws predominantly white characters (which, I'm pretty sure is the entire point of the thread...). Or a black artist who draws predominantly black characters. There is nothing wrong with this, and I'm unsure of why you seem to be so hostile.

Above all, I do understand that you're speaking of the primary ruleset. I agree it should be more diverse, but not via an arbitrary scoring or percentage. As I said in my prior statement, I would prefer they gave more than one visual example for each class, so that they can show various culture's traditional examples. I think that would truly be amazing.
Matthew B
329. MatthewB
@328. Guy Incognito They are straw men because you are not arguing against things that people are actually saying. You're taking a bunch of statements out of context, assigning them your own weighted meanings, lumping them all together as if everything were one person's argument, and then attacking the whole mass as if it were the real topic at hand.

If you can't see that this is what you're doing or you think this is actually a reasonable way to argue, then you might as well be just another troll on the internet. I don't really think that's how you want to be seen, but that's the impression you're giving.
Mordicai Knode
330. mordicai
328. Guy Incognito

Sorry if me pointing out endemic racial bias makes you think that I'm calling everyone a racist? I guess-- this is weird!-- but I guess I didn't think everyone was made of sugar & would melt in the rain? I mean, I thought us "politically correct" people were supposed to be the ones accused of being too sensitive. Hey! My argument is that institutional racial bias leads to the portrayal of white men as the default. So I'm not NOT saying it, I'm just also not saying that it makes an artist a Nazi KKK member, either. I'm saying it is a complex issue that needs to be addressed with eyes wide open, which include coming to terms with things that are hard to swallow, like-- gulp!-- that yeah, sitting by & doing nothing means you are part of the problem.

& sorry if the profound underlying legacy of colonialism as portrayed in Dungeons & Dragon's approach to demihumans is a pet peeve for you! But again you go with the false dichotomy. This isn't "Either 300 or Avatar," with those being our only two options. We can have Avatar: the Last Airbender, for instance! & yeah, sorry; the use of subhuman monsters to represent indigenous people is ugly & sucky but don't shoot the messenger here. Anyhow, that really is a red herring; that isn't what the post was about in the first place.

You boil down my argument to:
...this post was just saying "You draw too many white people. You're racist."
& you are wrong. What I'm saying-- if I had to use your one-sentence summary-- is "There are not enough people of colour. That is racist." See, because-- sorry white people, not everything is about us! It is about the startling lack of representation. Put your reverse racist fears aside. & it isn't a personal attack. It is is a look at output, at how the real diverse world is whitewashed in a particular fictional genre.

BUT I guess you agree with me, that there should be:
...I agree it should be more diverse, but not via an arbitrary scoring or percentage.
Luckily, since nobody besides you & a few other commenters disagreeing with me brought up an arbitrary scoring or percentage (a "quota") then I guess we're already in agreement. I mean:
I would prefer they gave more than one visual example for each class, so that they can show various culture's traditional examples. I think that would truly be amazing.
That sounds...pretty much like...what I said? So, I don't think we're disagreeing at all. You've roundly trounced all the scarecrows & here we are & you agree with me. Hooray!
JP Chapleau
331. danvolodar
>“The now-vanished Nerath was a highly cosmopolitan empire encompassing many tribes and kingdoms, with immigrant populations from the far flung corners of the world.” There; just like that. Fixed.

My character has black/blue/green/golden skin. There; just like that. Fixed.
Mordicai Knode
334. mordicai
331. danvolodar

I said elsewhere, but if I had been a bit more clever my "modest proposal..." would have been actual satire, saying that the melanin pigmentation scale needed to be in favor of blues & purples. Alas, I am not as smart as that.

I think that your black/blue/green/gold schema is a good one for non-humans, though, in actual reality. Forgotten Realms does a bit of this with their elves, with golden hair & burnished skin on Sun Elves, silver hair & ultra pale Moon Elves, copperskinned Wood Elves-- I played a Wood Elf with oxidized green hair-- & of course the black skinned white haired Drow Elves.

So I suspect you might be facetious-- I don't think abandoning real world patterns of pigmentation in humans is the solution for the core rule book or most campaigns, though I wouldn't rule it out-- but the fact remains that the 4e core rulebook doesn't follow it for non-humans. Other than for "monstrous humanoids" like grey orcs, green trolls & the goblinoid spectrum.
JP Chapleau
336. parmeisan
30. ElToro

>> When racism is "you know, like everyone kinda does
>> but they should be aware of"


I think this is interesting, and I'm wondering if I'm reading too much into it or if it was a very valid point that got poorly-made and swallowed up, but from this I am hearing the idea that by thinking about this too hard and trying too hard, we are actually encouraging racism of a certain type... that the ultimate ideal - and it totally is - is that someday we can raise kids who don't notice race/culture/skin colour any more than they notice glasses/hair colour/height. Right? And maybe if they point out their friend in a group of twelve people and say "the black one" there would be no malice or judgement in it and no one would care because it's exactly the same as saying "the black-haired one" in that it's the most convenient, defining feature and no one cares one way or another anything about it.

Certainly, I agree that not noticing race would be an important yardstick to measure our success at eradicating racism. That should be our goal, not the lesser goal of everybody noticing racism when it happens but feeling it's not so bad as long as you know you're doing it and you're trying not to. (Which might be the best we can hope for, for the CURRENT generations).

And I can see the point that perhaps by pointing out lack of race representation in the D&D rulebook - a book of rules for a game that is meant to take place in an alternate European Middle Ages and which anyone can decide for themselves who they want to play with no oppositon at all - ahem, that by pointing this out, we are maybe taking a step back from the "not noticing" thing.

BUT - and I encourage discourse - here I disagree. We are taking a step back, yes, but in order to take many steps forward. Because D&D is just one of many forms of media that does the same thing, and if we can, by deliberately noticing what we are doing and taking steps to address it, produce a world of media that is more in line with real-world race and gender representation, then it much more likely that our children, growing up to see diversity in all their media, won't hesitate to greet a new friend that just happens to belong to a race they haven't personally encountered before. ("Why does that kid , Mommy?")
JP Chapleau
337. parmeisan
Oh, apparently it didn't like my angle brackets. How about,

("Why does that kid ^insert visually obvious racial cue here^, Mommy?")
Mordicai Knode
338. mordicai
336. parmeisan

The "Not Noticing" thing has gotten some press lately on the subject of children-- notably, that not talking about race with kids tends to lead to them being vulnerable to prejudice & unexamined privilige. "Not Noticing" usually-- in in this particular example-- means "oh well, there are pretty much only white people & that reinforces existing power dynamics but oh well, what can you do?" It is a tool used to push responsibility into the margins, & like you point out, it fails to account for the real world; the real world might not have fireballs & dragons, but it does have people who aren't white.
JP Chapleau
339. tieuelium
I'm an african american male that has been playing D&D since 3rd grade and I'm 38. I reciently started a campaign with my girlfriend's 8 and 11 year olds.

The first thing that they did when presented the books is look at the pictures (the yongest, the girl who plays the Druid) and comment on what they looked like. She almost chose the paladin as a class becuase she saw the african american woman in full plate. The druid won out becuase of the animal comanions.

Image is everything! I have been saying for years that if the imagery could change they would sell more books.
Mordicai Knode
340. mordicai
339. tieuelium

Thanks for the personal note; I suspected as much. Which is the thing; I'm not saying "include diverse depictions of people out of a sense of charity," I'm saying "including diverse depictions of people will be a useful selling tool, because customers are...diverse people!" Expanding a market demographic isn't a bad thing!
JP Chapleau
341. Al Harron
I saw a couple of posts that seem to be under the impression Conan is not white, which is pretty distinctly not the case: he's a Cimmerian, which (in Howard's fictional Hyborian Age) were the ancestors of the ethnic group which would give rise to the modern Gaels of Ireland and Scotland. So no, not Pacific Islanders or Native Americans by any stretch. Furthermore, Conan cannot be black for the same reason Imaro or Black Panther cannot be white: because their ethnic origin is integral to their character, how other people react to them, and how they view the world.

But regarding the bigger discussion in general, there's absolutely no reason I can see that there can't be more diversity in Dungeons & Dragons, because the very nature of the game means that it's malleable and adjustable to suit the audience. It isn't a case of a creator presenting a world that may present an ethnic balance not reflected by current society (i.e. a book, comic or novel), this is a communal creation where the entire point is to be what you will. Putting random black characters in, say, Lord of the Rings would be problematic, because the entire setting is based upon a fictionalised Northern European setting, and just sticking in some black Gondorians or Elves for the sake of diversity plays havoc with Tolkien's setting. D&D doesn't have that issue.

Diversity is a great thing, it means a huge injection of originality and vitality into a genre that thrives on such things, and D&D is perfectly suited as a platform to make that leap.
JP Chapleau
342. James Davis Nicoll
Ah, but are the Gaels white? Let's see what no less an authority than Ben Franklin had to say in "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c.":

[i]24. Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

So you can see people of Gaelic descent (like myself) are no more white than the swarthy natives of Sweden or the other peoples of Europe.
Mordicai Knode
343. mordicai
341. Al Harron

I also just mean...on a level of pigmentation, re: Conan. Regardless of ethnic drift!

Anyhow, yes, Tolkien did a European pastiche...but I mean, well! Let's look at the Haradrim; they exist, yeah? The role of Faramir could have easily been swapped out-- Gondorian guerillas-- for a group of Haradrim who were trying to save their people from Sauron's grasp. I'm just spitballing here.

More to the point, I'm not talking about a narrative so much as a meta-narrative. Roleplaying games aren't stories, they are the building blocks of stories. Reflecting people of diverse background at a foundational level is important; white washing it at that basic level is a bad thing.
JP Chapleau
345. MathMoth
I've read some posts and skimmed most, so forgive me I'm echoing earlier statements, or just bouncing around too much.

It seems natural to me that the subject of "quotas" has come up. The
author has essentially divided the representation of different skin
colors into a pie graph, and is saying the proportions need to be
redistributed. So the goal is diversity. What I wonder is, in what
proportion should each group be represented? Should the distribution
reflect the demographic of the market? The country the product is
published in? The global population? Or should it simply be a kind of
gradient color balance? I'm not asking rhetorically. I just want to know
what kind of end goal people are shooting for.

Personally, I like D&D 3rd Edition's approach of ambiguous ethnicity. Though like the author, I would like to also see the inclusion of more
distinct/extreme features. There's a reason for wanting diversity in the
art of these products, and I think it's less about building a diverse
game world (which is the role of a Campaign Setting) and more about
allowing the player to project themselves into the role of the
characters illustrated. Which is not to say that a person can't identify
with someone of a different color or gender. But when the whole book
predominately represents one ethnicity, it may as well read "Not meant
for you" to anyone else. Ambiguity also helps get around the potential
issue of your fantasy iconics turning into the BK Kids. I expect that
kind of heavy-handedness is what turns a lot of players off.

Campaign settings are their own topic, I think, and the one where historic arguments become more relevant. Ideally, for a setting book, I'd like to see each person of color differ as they do in appearance due to a distinct heritage that can be traced back to a particular region with
its own culture. It's just a lot of work. When a writer has already detailed two dozen cultures to account for the various player races, they usually don't find time for a dozen human cultures. There are ways around it, but they don't work for every setting. And yes, this is fantasy, there are dragons and wizards flying around. But in a good setting, those elements have specific origins.
Mordicai Knode
346. mordicai
345. MathMoth

300+ comments are...a lot of comments, so I don't blame you!

On the subject of quotas; that would be A solution, but not a good one. Yes, I use proportions to show the exaggerated gulf in portrayals, but I think there are other, far more organic steps that can be taken. Heck, simple mindfulness would do wonders; I don't think there is like, a hushed conspiracy to only show white folks. I just think it is a matter of the persistant media bias of "white" as "default." Hiring talent with diverse backgrounds is another way to go. It isn't hard to think of cool non-white characters; I don't think you need to force a quota to get there.

The problem with ambiguous ethnicity is two-fold. One, there are plenty of people who aren't ambiguous. Dark skin is...dark. That aside, the biggest problem is...well, what we see with Todd Lockwood's art. Subsequent interpretations of it backslide into the "white as default." You know?

Anyhow, like I say above-- campaign guides are their own ball of wax. I don't expect to see African descended looking people in your Rokugon game-- though with the super pale Crane, you could argue that another clan, like the Dragon, should be dark skinned-- or pale skinned people in your Dark Sun game. Sure.
JP Chapleau
347. Oldguy
I think we're overlooking a much larger issue here. There are depictions of women and non-white characters, but there are no deptictions of old characters!

Why is WotC D&D art age-ist?

When was the last time WotC portrayed old people in their core rulebooks? They haven't. Back in the old TSR days, artwork portraying old characters, especially Gandalf-like wizards, was somewhat common. There's even an old guy on the cover of the 1e Player's Handbook!

Bring back the art of older characters! Don't exclude people who aren't young. Demographically, the majority of Americans are over the age of 30, yet there is not one depticiton of an over-30 character in a WotC D&D Player's Handbook!

I think we should demand that the majority of characters depicted in the Player's Handbook be over the age of 30!
Mordicai Knode
348. mordicai
347. Oldguy

Unless you count elves, I guess, I assume all those guys are in their hundreds! Though you raise a fair point, I suppose-- I don't think an equivalent one, but sure-- sure! Bring in some older dudes. I for one would like to see some play options for playing both the "would-be hero" & the "grizzled veteran".
JP Chapleau
349. denelian
i don't know how i missed this when it was first posted. it's so very, very up my alley.

see, i'm half Native and a girl -- and yes, there is still a huge struggle in large portions of the gaming world for girls to be accepted. hell, i'm CALLING MYSELF a girl, and i'm 36 - and i've been gaming for 30 years, now . this isn't something to lay at the feet of game makers but i've been sick of hearing things like "you're just looking for a boyfriend" or "you have no idea about X, you're A GIRL and GIRLS aren't CAPABLE of X"
add jokes about the "Injun" and...


not only are there my problems, but my partner? he's black. in the 9 years we've been together, i think i've heard just about every piece of BS that can be subtly leveled at a black person in the context of gaming. suggestions that he play an orc or other "monsterous" humanoid, because isn't that closer to his "natural" culture or something? insinuations that he games so that he can pretend that *HE* is white. crude jokes about how if we were to somehow wake up in a D&D world, he'd have X, Y or Z horrible life and he should be "grateful" that his fellow players don't treat him like that...
i think the shit heaped on him? is worse for me than the shit heaped on ME.

and yes, we don't continue in games where assholes get away with this... though a lot of the time, other players DON'T GET IT. they don't see why we're offended and or hurt by something they just thought was a joke.


so i almost cried to read this. i hope they listen.


and thank you for being so awesome as to write it. even if it isn't satire :)



as a side note - how about some old WOMEN, too? also, why not depict people with children? there ARE reasons for that to happen, na da? especially if, say, you're talking about class that has a background in being schooled, taught as children in a monastary or school or whatever. old people are awesome. they've had more experience, if they're lucky they've developed some wisdom, and if they combine the experience and wisdom, have enough self-control to accomplish a LOT!
Mordicai Knode
350. mordicai
349. denelian

I've always thought-- I think we might have talked about it in the comments above, but I'm too lazy to look-- that a system for "grizzled veterans" would be a neat thing to add into the game. You know, maybe Fresh Young Heroes would get more attribute points but Grizzled Vets would get more feats & skills or something? The "aging" mechanics are a little too prohibative for my taste, but then, I'm of the "age & treachery" school of thought, myself.

Anyhow, the fact that people like you exist is sort of the big answer to the deniers, who see a world of all white men & go "well, all gamers are white men anyhow" as their "solution" to the problem.
JP Chapleau
351. Knight of the New World
I am more acquainted with Forgotten Realms than Greyhawk but @245 touched on a good point which I'd like to add to - both FR -and- Greyhawk are whole worlds, with nations in different climates and what we in the real world would consider to be different ethnicities.

IMO the main reason the 'Africa continent' of Chult or the 'Middle Eastern' analogue of Calimshan (or to an extent, Thay) is less popular than the Europe analogue of Faerun is because most of the video games, novels and the 'great' modules of Forgotten Realms are set there. It's really annoying when I see people complaining about D&D as a WHOLE as being this one-dimensional Tolkien ripoff when in fact, there's a whole world out there that DMs and players are barely exposed to (special credit for the Neverwinter Nights 2 games for bringing Chult and Rashamen into their expansion packs) and thus barely aware of - because of Wizards' emphasis on the 'traditional'. And from what I've heard from my Greyhawk-loving friends, that setting is equally ripe for in-game diversity and that's also ignored. My roleplay buddies who see my (far from professional quality) setting's forays into alternatives from medieval Europe-analogue culture absolutely love it and can't get enough of it, and I don't see why the big boys don't think the D&D community isn't ready for these places to be mainstream - or their people.

I say good on Pathfinder for fixing this problem, and for my part, I hope Wizards wises up.
Mordicai Knode
352. mordicai
351. Knight of the New World

It is equally weird to me-- like a purposeful blind spot-- that people claim DnD has been traditionally European forever, as if Tekumel, Maztica, Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur & Athas didn't exist. Wizards has plenty of stuff they could bring in; it wouldn't even be hard. Heck, they were willing to smash in dragonborn & tieflings-- would it be so hard to do the same thing with people who weren't white?
JP Chapleau
353. Cafenerd
Ok so I read through like half these comments. O.O so many of them holy cow. I'm a younger white lady, and honestly what I think should happen is we should start making games with the main charcter being self created... I think it worls better for all people that way. THe fill in charcters should be of what ever race, I mean it shouldn't matter really by veiwing it as a problem or having to strive to make it one way or another is what makes a problem in my opinion. If we just let people do what they want and not perseive things as one way or another then there is no problem to begin with ya know. I've only seen 1 D&D book and that was ad&d 2nd edition and I only really looked at it for the words in it, granted the art was good, I don;t think it should be what particularly matters. It is as said before a role playing game where you control what your charcter can be for the most part so it shouldn't really matter I think. And for games on a general bases I think the Mass Effect series is a good example at ethnic diverity and why it shouldn't matter other than for story bases. Now for the whole main characters being white males agian I don't thinik it should matter all that much. Its the story that matters, like in bioshock infinite you play a white male, but had you been any other race or gender it wouldn't have mattered much (I mean yea in that story it had fair impacked, but thats now what I mean), I just mean that the story was amazing and the word itself was amazing. So yea I don't know I wouldn't mind playing any race or gender as long as the game itself has charcter and is good :) just my opinion ^-^ I felt like sharing my views :P.

I do however agree with alot of what denelian said :).
Mordicai Knode
354. mordicai
353. Cafenerd

See, that is exactly what I mean about Bioshock. Even in the example you cite, it does matter, representation matters. White people have disproportionate representation; mostly people in the thread weren't even arguing about that point, they were arguing over whether or not disproportionate representation was important or not. Which is funny; you'd think that a passionate argument in favor of whitewashing representations in gaming art might be one of those paradoxes...like it obviously matters, it matters to them enough to "defend" against more diversity.
JP Chapleau
355. LakeSnake
Read only about half the comments, but wanted to chime in.

Being a minority, I absolutely would like to see more skin tones and feature sets in RPG art. It is a slap in the face to minorities that we are ignored (or worse, demonized). Really, just draw up some macho Asian-looking warriors or Latino wizards or Africanesque priests and intersperse them randomly with the Conans and Dumbledors. Such an easy thing to do, and it would make some people feel a lot better.
JP Chapleau
356. Lambantninja
Wow...Kudos to Mordecai for such an insightful thread. I am reading this while putting the finishing touches on a 3.5 campaign setting I designed based on "The Sunless Citadel". I came across this thread while looking for "black D and D miniatures" for one of my players who is black (I am half white non-female myself...see what I did there with defaults;) The stories really resonate with me. For the three years since I started this hobby (which Ironically was due to the lack of representation of myself in videogames) I never thought that I would ever end up DMing my own campaign. I felt that because the majority of people I played with were white/male/straight and their ideas came from/with complete disregard of other races/genders/sexual orientations, none of them would ever want me and my "strange" afflication with issues of equality to create a world for them. I feel like in a similar sense, POC, Women, LGBT, etc. gamers are unattracted to D and D as a whole because of the poor representation they recieve. My own solution was to reach out to these groups anyways, despite my jaded reality; and lo and behold it worked!!!!! WotC could easily do the same thing and see nothing but positive results. Now I get to be DM and run a campaign that reflects real world issues that appeal to my player base....who actually are human beings and actually have meaningful experiences. They may not match up with yours (see white fanboy), but they are important none the less. Why limit a limitless game to white europe trope twister??? "Spin the dial to see what other color we appropriate" is not a good core rulebook model AT ALL. Grow up and share your toys.

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